THE OLD TESTAMENT HOUSE OF THE LORD: THIRTEEN
Copyright © 2013 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
“The Old Testament House of the Lord: Thirteen” is taken from The Tabernacle of the Congregation, copyright © 2011 Trumpet Ministries
Table of Contents
Exercise of Gifts
Giving Divine Directions
Tabernacle Boards Typify the Body of Christ
The Bars of the Tabernacle
Shepherds and Teachers
The Design of Christian Ministry
There is a proper manner in which the assemblies of the Christians are to be conducted. It appears from the Scripture that there is a definite place for spiritual leadership and oversight in the churches of Christ, and that it is impossible for the Body of Christ to become unified or to grow to the full stature of Christ without such leadership (Ephesians 4:4-16).
First of all, Christian leadership is not a solo performance. Secondly, Christian leadership is not the directing of a spiritual orchestra. It is the place of the Christian elders neither to do everything themselves nor to order the saints of God to all prophesy, all pray, all do personal work, all rejoice.
It is proper to invite and encourage the believers to do things together at appropriate times. But the flock of God should not be forced, driven or scorned into spiritual service or worship in concert and on cue. This is regimentation and it has no place in the household of God.
They came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments. (Exodus 35:21).
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. (II Corinthians 9:7).
There are two exceptions to what we have just said about regimentation, or doing things together, in the worship service. The first is this: there are times when the Holy Spirit will move on the leadership to gather the people together and work with them until they break through into victory. This may take some strong forms such as all marching around the building, all lifting hands, all shouting, and so forth. Sometimes an effort is necessary because of heavy spiritual bondage.
The Holy Spirit will direct when a group effort is to be made, and then everyone should cooperate. This is not fleshly regimentation because it is a direct intervention of the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. It is Christ-exalting rather than man-exalting. If it really is the Lord’s doing, a peaceful and powerful sense of His Presence will be experienced by the assembled believers.
The second exception is the fact that all things should be done “decently and in order.” For the sake of the practical conduct of an assembly there are times when people must stand, sit, sing, and do other things together.
Neither of these two exceptions changes the fact that the worship services of the saints must move ever closer to the place where the Holy Spirit is bringing heavenly harmony into a diverse and yet wonderfully ordered manifestation of Christ among the saints. Such harmony in diversity is not attained easily, and it will take Spirit-filled leadership to bring it to full development.
Christian unity, a most desirable state from God’s point of view, does not mean everyone is doing the same thing at the same time. Christian unity is a unity of the heart, a unity in the Spirit, and often does not work out in an external unity that consists of everyone manifesting the Spirit of God in the same way at the same time.
The unity of the Body of Christ, that is, of all true saints in every part of the world, is like the several pipes of one great perfectly tuned pipe organ. The pipes produce themes and harmonies under the touch of the master performer. When all the pipes are made to sound at once there is dissonance. Where would the music be if all the pipes sounded at the same pitch?
Exercise of Gifts
Ministry in the churches of Christ is not a passive bystander’s role—“Let us wait to see if the Spirit will move.” This is not the manner in which spiritual gifts and ministries are to operate in the assemblies of the believers.
If God had wanted the churches to have mediumistic-type assemblies He would not have instituted apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers, miracle workers, gifts of healing, and so forth. God requires prayerful spiritual leadership in spiritual manifestations as well as diligent oversight in the business of the church. Decency and order must always be maintained in the household of faith.
Correct exercise of spiritual ministries and gifts occurs when a member of the Body of Christ stirs up his unique manifestations. A Christian stirs up his own gifts, whether they be prophecy, teaching, shepherding, exhorting, or some other revelation of Christ. A person has to just get out there and do it, as the Spirit of God leads him or her and creates the opportunity.
The believer through experience, through being taught and corrected, and as the outgrowth of a stable Christian life of patient, cross-carrying obedience to Christ, must develop a good sense of the timing of the Spirit. A sense of timing is quite different from the mediumistic “waiting for the moving of the Spirit.”
We are not to wait for “voices.” We are in spiritual combat and we use our gifts as weapons against the enemy. We stir up, stir up, stir up our gifts; in season, out of season, in every season!
We take a step forward in the Lord. We do what is set before us to do. The wisdom that applies to spiritual ministry is neither a fleshly directing nor regimenting of the ministries, nor is it a waiting for voices, signs, urges, omens, or fleeces. There is a third procedure that is the correct one and that will produce spiritual victory.
Experienced Christian warriors know that when they neglect prayer they lose the desire to pray and they lose strength in prayer. A Christian must set himself to pray. He doesn’t wait for God to lift him out of himself in order to pray. He sets himself to pray, and, after struggling for a while perhaps, he finally enters a spirit of prayer.
This is not to say that he forces the prayer; rather, he stirs it up. He “takes up his burden,” so to speak. He stirs up the gift of prayer. Increased strength and effectiveness in a ministry or gift come with practice.
The same is true of tongues and prophecy. They can be stirred up by the Christian and are subject to the Christian. The Christian is never subject to his spiritual ministries. The Christian has been created by God to rule with Christ, not to be subject to spirits. The Christian has been given the authority of judgment. This is one of the greatest gifts of all.
Spiritual manifestations are from the Holy Spirit, it is true. The Holy Spirit, being God, is never under the rule of the Christian. The ministries and gifts of the Spirit are given to the Christian and always are under the dominion of the Christian. Any other viewpoint leads to superstition and idolatry. “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (I Corinthians 14:32).
There are Christian assemblies in which it is easy to stir up one’s gifts. In such assemblies there will be much prophecy and revelation. The reason there is little prophecy or revelation in many Christian assemblies is that the proper “atmosphere” is not present. The stage has not been set. The expectation is that the minister will minister and the congregation will congregate.
The Lord does not enjoy having to disturb a social setting in order to speak.
One of the most important aspects of “setting the stage” for spiritual manifestation is the continual offering of worship and prayer by righteous, holy, obedient believers.
It happens on occasion that there is Divine intervention and God comes in extraordinary power on a “dead” service. Such seasons of refreshing are examples of the goodness of God, and everyone is blessed as the Holy Spirit takes over and redirects our activities into fruitful channels.
Sometimes churches endure long seasons of dryness; and then, often in response to the prayers of a group of saints who have given themselves to supplication and spiritual battle, the heavens will open and the Lord will pour out refreshing rains and give renewed impetus to evangelism, teaching, gifts of the Holy Spirit, personal repentance, and good works of all kinds. At such times of revival it may be quite easy to find God’s will and do it.
In the dry seasons it is doubly important that we use the faith and the ministries God has given us, so when Jesus passes by He finds us faithfully and diligently using what He has given to us for the building of His Kingdom (Mark 11:13,14).
The “stage must be set.” There must be an attitude of encouragement and expectancy if we hope to see the manifestation of the gifts and ministries of the Spirit of God in an assembly of Christians.
We believe one of the major responsibilities of the leadership of the churches in the present hour is to lead the flock of God into the full and diligent exercise of each talent given to each individual Christian by the Holy Spirit of God. Some of the ministries and gifts of the Body of Christ are for use outside the assembly and some are for use during the meetings.
True spiritual leadership, as we see it, consists of those with the ministry of leadership teaching and opening up spiritual and material opportunities so the Lord’s people can learn how to stir up and diligently apply their ministries and gifts, both within and outside of the assemblies. This is not the entire responsibility of Christian eldership but it certainly is an important part. It is time now for each Christian to grow strong in the Lord and to learn how to work at his or her own ministry. The Holy Spirit has “divided to every man…”
This is not to say that every local assembly has every gift and ministry. The Lord considers all of His assemblies to be one sheepfold. It may be true that some of the assemblies are especially strong in one area and some in another. Some may have a unique ministry to the poor; some to drug addicts; some to the unsaved; and so forth. Often it has been difficult for a local assembly to recognize worth in another assembly that has a different calling. It is a temptation (and of Satan) for the one assembly to criticize another assembly because it is different in its emphasis. As someone said, “We do not have to pull our brother’s stone out of the wall, just put our own stone in place.”
By stirring up and working at their own talents the believers will enter the battles of the Lord and will make progress in the unifying and maturing of the entire Body of Christ.
True Christian eldership is neither overly dominant nor overly passive, nor is it a solo performance. However, there may be a need at times for an unusual amount of dominance, or an unusual amount of waiting and going slowly, or for one person to do most or all of the ministering for a season.
No doubt there are many Christians in these days who would follow more closely in God’s path if they knew how to do so. One good prayer along this line is that God will build His Church according to His own pattern, and that we all may become better able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and to be sensitive and obedient to His directions.
If we pray this prayer it should not surprise us to find an emphasis being laid on the restoration of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherd-teachers, the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, the gifts of healing, the working of miracles, helps, governments, and other gifts of the Spirit.
The Church of Christ must be built up into the unity of the faith by the various ministries of the Body of Christ (I Corinthians, Chapters 12 and 14; Romans 12; Ephesians, Chapter Four).
Giving Divine Directions
The Lord God has not left it to people to design His Church, just as He did not leave it to people to design the Tabernacle of the Congregation. God knows exactly how He wants each assembly in our day—to the smallest detail. But the manner in which God gives the directions for the building of the assembly is somewhat different from the case of Moses and the Tabernacle.
God’s method of giving directions to the Christian churches is through the ministries and manifestations of the Holy Spirit. The program of instruction is under the direct control of the Holy Spirit. The Christians meet. The Holy Spirit flows through the assembled members. There is a guidance here, a word there; and little by little the Body of Christ is built up (edified).
The growth of the Body of Christ is similar to the manner in which the physical body grows from babyhood to adulthood. One doesn’t make a body grow. One feeds the body, provides for it, protects it from abuse. Unless the physical body is sick it will grow of its own inner mechanism.
So it is with the Body of Christ. Its growth mechanism is far too complicated for someone to write out step by step in a book. Even if someone were able to put the plan in book form it still would be impossible for people to bring the plan to successful completion. The work has to be performed by the Lord.
Rather, the Body of Christ is formed in the lives of consecrated believers as their faith and ministries are purified in the fires of experience. It is a matter of the flesh of man becoming the Word of God—a word refined many times in the furnace of affliction and tribulation. The Holy Spirit controls the process. Our part is to obey God and to overcome through faith the obstacles set before us each day.
Here is a description of the manner in which God gives to us His particular directions for building the Body of Christ:
He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; The perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; Speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers, helps, workers of miracles, governments, speakers in tongues, interpreters of tongues, possessors of faith, helps, and so forth are required for bringing about the maturity and the unity of the Body of Christ.
It is impossible that the Body of Christ can come to maturity apart from widespread participation in ministry on the part of the Christian believers. But it is not enough that all Christians participate. Rather it must be true that each Christian participate according to the specific gifts and plan of the Holy Spirit for his individual life.
Tabernacle Boards Typify the Body of Christ
The boards of the Tabernacle form a picture of the Body of Christ. The boards stood on end, side by side.
Thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle of Shittim wood standing up. (Exodus 26:15).
The tops of the boards were level. There were no boards that stood up above the others. The construction suggests a brotherhood of believers, equal in the Lord. The following words of Jesus are brought to mind:
Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brothers. Call no man your father on the earth: for one is your Father, which is in Heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. (Matthew 23:8-10).
It seems reasonable that the brotherhood of believers—the boards “standing up”—should be emphasized at this time. Many Christians are too prone to want to remain in the background “sitting down” instead of “standing up.” The Lord Jesus will not be pleased if we “bury our talents.”
The Church of Christ is a brotherhood of believers who are equal in the Lord, each having something to give to the other so there is unity and growth in the entire body of believers.
The fact that we are all equal does not mean there is no oversight in the household of faith.
Obey them that have the 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 13:17).
The Bars of the Tabernacle
There were five bars going around the three sides of the Tabernacle, held in place by gold rings fastened to the boards. As we understand the symbolism, the long middle bar that ran from end to end is the Lord Jesus Christ. The remaining four bars represent the four ministries of Ephesians, Chapter Four: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherd-teachers.
If we are to have participation in spiritual gifts by all Christians, as we have just suggested, we must have strong spiritual eldership and oversight. The ministries of leadership God has set in the Church must be respected and obeyed in the Lord. The more widespread the various gifts become among the flock of God the greater will be the need for anointed spiritual oversight. God is ever a lover of order and government, and He will not bless any undertaking that does not have diligent leadership.
Spiritual leaders must be crucified in the inner man so the Holy Spirit is free to lead through them. They must be anointed, giving time for prayer and for the ministry of the Word. Then the Holy Spirit can instruct them in the oversight of the members of the Body of Christ. Their oversight must be vigorous and consistent; yet they always must keep in mind that they are not lords over the flock but their role is to feed the Lord’s sheep whom He has purchased with His own blood.
The ministry of the apostle was important in the Church of the first century.
Fear came on every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. (Acts 2:43).
By the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. Of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. (Acts 5:12,13).
Paul declares that the gifts of grace are given to Christians in order to equip them for the work of ministering. The Christians, each of whom has a ministry from the Holy Spirit, are to build the Body of Christ by means of the spiritual graces they have been given.
Each believer is to do his part until we all come to maturity in Christ.
Paul does not set aside four special ministries in any letter other than that to the Ephesians. It is not advisable to establish doctrine on one passage of Scripture. Paul’s treatment of the four ministries in other passages leads us to believe we should view the ministries in a more general manner.
For example, consider the way in which the following ministries and gifts are placed in one category:
God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? (I Corinthians 12:28-30).
It does seem a bit unusual that Paul, a most specific and legally-minded man, would treat the four ministries in such a general manner (not even mentioning evangelists or pastors) if they constituted a special dispensation to the Church of Christ.
If the five bars of the Tabernacle indeed do represent Christ and the four major ministries of Ephesians 4:11, then we would suggest that we think of the ministries as being four important kinds of roles, or services, rather than placing too much importance on an exalted group of men.
From our point of view, a special assignment of priestliness or preeminence to any ministry or set of ministries tends to destroy the concept of the Body of Christ as being an equal fellowship of believers. We feel that Paul would agree with this.
Paul had such an extraordinary dispensation of grace from the Lord Jesus that he must have been tempted to assume priestly authority over his fellow believers. Romans 1:11,12 seems to give us insight into the inner struggle of Paul against assuming spiritual preeminence over the other believers.
The gift of the apostleship asserts itself in verse 11, and then is tempered in verse 12 by the awareness of the equality of the fellowship of Christian believers:
There is a healthy balance expressed in these words. First of all, Paul had great authority in the Spirit. He did not speak merely as a learned teacher. Paul had the power to impart spiritual grace to the Christians. Yet he would not allow himself to be placed above the Christian brothers and sisters; and so he said, “that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”
We find the same restraint in II Corinthians 1:24:
Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.
If we can maintain this restraint, this rejection of the priestly role, ever before us, then perhaps we can accept safely the concept of the ministries of Ephesians 4:11 as being the fulfillment of the four shorter rods in the sides of the boards of the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
In the days in which we are living there are “apostles” and “prophets” who are attempting to bring the churches under their jurisdiction, teaching that if the Christians do not yield to them they are disobeying God.
These men are not of God. They serve only to bring the believers into bondage. The true apostle and prophet sets the believer free by leading him to Jesus.
Any ministry, including that of pastor and elder, that creates dependence on itself, is not serving God or His flock. Each of us who teaches, or leads in some other manner, must bring the people into liberty in the Lord, not into bondage to himself.
There is only one flock and one Shepherd. All divisions in the one flock are little kingdoms created by self-seeking people. It seems there are very few faithful under-shepherds. Many of the religious leaders are seeking their own profit, not the things of Christ.
The faithful apostles and prophets of the Lord are bringing the Bride to the Bridegroom, and they are giving their lives to do so.
The apostle carries the responsibility from the Lord Jesus Christ to ensure that the Church is established on Christ and on no other foundation. He is a man of signs and wonders and proclaims the Word of Christ with all authority. (II Corinthians 12:12). An apostle is sent forth from the side of Christ with the burden of the Word of the Lord.
The apostle is answerable directly to Christ. That is why we find Paul repeating this concept: “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)” (Galatians 1:1). The apostle is Christ’s own man, sent forth (“apostled”) from the Lord Jesus Christ in order to express the will of Christ concerning the Church.
An apostle is sent from the side of Jesus. Nevertheless the apostle is not a lord over the churches. He primarily is a witness (I John 1:1,2). He bears witness of the things he sees and hears while he walks in and with Christ.
The apostle possesses Divine credentials—the powerful manifestation of the Holy Spirit of God. People who follow his teachings do so voluntarily, they are under no human coercion.
Apostles do issue commands to the churches:
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. (II Thessalonians 3:6).
Even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should eat. (II Thessalonians 3:10).
The rule of the apostle is a spiritual gift rather than a lordship backed up by a human organization. The leadership of the apostle is the kind that comes from a leader so strong in the Lord that we are compelled by his example to follow him.
Our obedience springs joyfully from the heart. It is the happy response to someone who has what we want. He has gone down the path ahead of us. He has seen the Lord. So we follow joyfully, freely, because he knows the way to the Presence of Christ.
We might think of the service of the apostle as being the voice of Christ to the universal Church. He receives the specifications from Christ firsthand. The apostle announces to the churches the will of God concerning the building of the Church of Christ.
Yet the man himself in no manner is elevated above his brothers in the Lord. It is his ministry, his gift, that services the churches. He himself does not become a priest to the fellow believers except in the sense in which every Christian disciple is at times a priest to his fellow believers.
The task of the apostle is to build the Church of Christ on the true foundation the Holy Spirit has laid. That foundation is Christ Himself. The Church is to be founded on Christ. It is the apostle’s responsibility to make certain there is no person, no doctrine, no thing in the foundation other than Christ. Apostles are needed in every generation to ensure that the will of Christ is being performed in the Church.
The service of the prophets is similar to that of the apostles in that both speak the Word of Christ to the Church. The Church is built on the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20), and that foundation is Christ. Any other foundation will not hold against the forces of Hell.
However, the nature of the prophet’s burden seems to be somewhat different from that of the apostle. The apostle carries a permanent burden of the will of Christ for the establishing of the Church. The prophet speaks the burden of the Word of the Lord as he perceives it at any given moment.
The apostle has a portion of the plan of God locked in his heart, and he works out that portion throughout his life. The prophet proclaims the immediate burden of the Lord, announcing what God is doing and will do in the Church of Christ.
There seems to be little or no difference between the prophets of the first covenant and the prophets of the Christian Church. The closest ministry to that of a Christian apostle that can be found in the first covenant may be the ministry of Moses. (Nehemiah also had an apostolic-type ministry.).
The contrast between Moses and Isaiah may be typical of the difference between an apostle and a prophet. Moses and Isaiah both spoke the word of the Lord to Israel. However, Moses had a permanent commission to bring Israel into the land of promise while Isaiah declared the mind of the Lord for the present and the future. A commission to bring as distinguished from a declaration of the thought of God.
Our observations of the difference between the apostle and the prophet are not intended to describe an inflexible mold for either ministry.
It is unfortunate that we seem to have so few apostles and prophets ministering today. The Church, the Body of Christ, can neither mature nor be unified apart from these two ministries. The Church is weak because the foundational ministries, that of apostle and prophet, are not abundant.
From our point of view, the lack of true apostles and prophets is one of the top problems facing the Church in this hour. We Christians should be praying to God to restore all the ministries that are essential to the unity and maturity of the Church of Christ.
Let us repeat a previous warning. There are persons going from church to church today who claim to be apostles and prophets, or spiritual lords over geographical areas. However, the kind of power that would accompany a truly God-given authority of this kind is not present with them. They are ambitious people who are seeking their own glory. The churches are not to be afraid of them.
The evangelist is God’s salesman. He goes wherever people are and proclaims the Good News. All men should come and find this wonderful Lord Jesus Christ who died for our sins. All are welcome. “Come to the waters that are without money and without price!”
The evangelist is positioned at the door of the Tabernacle, by the bronze Altar of Burnt Offering and the Laver. He stands there and points toward the Lamb of God who was crucified for our sins.
Billy Graham is one of the outstanding evangelists of modern times, a man beloved by Christians of many denominations. This should be true always of the ministries of Ephesians 4:11—they should tend to bring together the people of God. Billy Graham’s ministry seems to do that.
Shepherds and Teachers
We have seen that the apostle lays the foundation of the Church, which is the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he has a commission to do so from the Lord Jesus. The prophet speaks about the current burden of the Lord—current to the people, time, and place where he is ministering. He also helps to establish the Church on the one foundation, Christ.
The evangelist proclaims the good news: “The Redeemer has come to save you from the Day of Judgment. Repent, believe the Gospel, and you will be saved in that day. Whoever will do so may come.”
Someone has to stay at home with the new Christians. Someone has to take God’s children by the hand and nourish them in the Word of the Lord, watching out for the wolves who would come to destroy the Lord’s lambs. This is the task of the shepherd and teacher.
The service of the shepherd is that of ministering to the various needs of people as they attempt to make a success of the Christian life. He teaches them how to press forward in the Lord and also to serve God in a practical manner in this world. The shepherd holds the little ones of the Lord in his heart and leads them gently beside the quiet waters.
In a true sense of the word there is only one Shepherd of the flock. The Lord is the Shepherd who leads each of us into green pastures. Only He can guide us into paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. The pastor on earth is charged with feeding the Lord’s sheep and lambs. He looks to the Lord Jesus always for directions concerning each person in his care.
The Lord Jesus remains the great Shepherd of the sheep. The rest of us are helpers of people’s joy—nothing more. A firm grasp on this concept enables us to tear down, mentally at least, the walls that separate God’s people.
As Christians grow in the Lord they must pass through the various stages of maturity, just as do boys and girls in the physical world. The pastor’s task is to assist them as they grow to maturity in the Lord. The Holy Spirit is at work in each believer, leading him or her toward the right kind of independence so he or she can become strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might—one of the Lord’s “mighty men.”
Spiritual teaching is a vital ministry of the Church. The Lord Jesus was and is the supreme Teacher. No greater teacher has appeared among men. Even the unconverted people of the world refer to the concepts of daily living that Jesus outlined, and to the phrases and illustrations He used.
The Holy Spirit is a teacher—a master teacher. Paul was a teacher and possessed (possesses) a profound and logical mind.
The Lord Jesus employed simple stories to illustrate ways of dealing with the major issues of human experience: hatred, revenge, forgiveness, love, service to God, and singleness of purpose.
The Holy Spirit teaches us by interpreting and guiding our personal experiences throughout our lives. Paul explained the relationship between the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ. Paul seemed to have, more than any other person, the understanding of the true nature of God’s grace and of the significance of the Church. For example, Paul is the only New Testament writer who refers to the Church as the “body of Christ.”
When we compare the methods of Jesus and Paul, both master teachers, we see that the ministry of teaching can be quite varied in style. Jesus and Paul had this in common: each had wisdom and revelation concerning the things of God. Although he may have a unique style, true teacher of the things of God must be anointed with the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the Word of God.
Sunday school provides an opportunity for the instruction of the converts and also for the spiritual training of children. Most experienced Christian people who are sound in doctrine and holy in living should be able to instruct and be an example to new converts and to children (II Timothy 2:2; Hebrews 5:12). However, some Christians seem to have a special gift of teaching the Word of God.
The ministries of Ephesians 4:11 are services to the Church. As such they may be regarded as the fulfillment of the rods that strengthened the sides of the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
Christ Himself is the perfect Apostle, the perfect Prophet, the perfect Evangelist, the perfect Shepherd and Teacher. The ministries given to men are expressions of Christ’s own ministry to the Church, which is His Body.
There is much overlap of ministry in the New Testament. Paul was an apostle and teacher. John was an apostle and prophet. All of the apostles and many of the believers served as evangelists (Acts 8:4). The accent is on service to the Church of Christ and not on four exalted stations in the Body of Christ.
The boards of the Tabernacle portray the members of the Body of Christ. The boards stood on end, side by side. We can see in the pattern of this construction the unity and equality of the brotherhood of believers.
O that God will hasten the day when the Christians can meet together as fellow disciples and worshipers of the Lord Jesus Christ! We believe whenever Christians do assemble in an informal, happy, loving manner, the Presence of the Lord Jesus will come in great blessing. This is His Body.
Perhaps we need to return at times to the close-knit group of faithful disciples gathered around the Lord’s table, breaking bread together in remembrance of our Lord Jesus Christ who is coming again in the clouds of glory to receive us to Himself. Would not this simple unity and fellowship be the fulfillment of the “boards standing up” of the Tabernacle of the Congregation?
The Design of Christian Ministry
There appears to be a need among Christians for a more spiritual type of assembly, more communication of the Life of Christ from the Holy Spirit, more prayer and worship. Because of dissatisfaction with the regular church services there is talk of leaving the institutionalized churches in favor of home churches.
In the future the members of the Body of Christ must come out of the worldly churches. But the changes that are needed run deeper than mere changes in the physical facilities. We need to look carefully to the Holy Spirit that we do not run ahead of His plan.
From our point of view, the design of the Tabernacle of the Congregation suggests some concepts we might wish to keep in mind whenever we Christians assemble or minister to the unconverted. The points we will mention are not intended to be a rigid pattern all Christians must follow. They are only concepts to be used as guides as the Holy Spirit directs.
First of all, it may be helpful to realize there are three platforms, if you will, in the design for the building of the Kingdom of God. The first level is portrayed by the Courtyard of the Tabernacle (Exodus 27:9).
The things of the Courtyard are for people who are not as yet in the Church. In the Courtyard were the bronze Altar of Burnt Offering and the Laver (Exodus 27:1; 30:18). The bronze altar represents Christ on the cross and the Laver speaks of water baptism. The world meets God through Christ in these two elements.
“Repent, and be baptized!” Such is the wisdom of God. We may make it complicated for the unsaved. God has created a simple plan whereby the lost can be saved.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;… (Mark 16:16).
Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38).
Now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:16).
There always must be ministry to the unconverted. Such ministry should be simple, direct, and inspired by the Holy Spirit. The chief purpose of ministry to the unconverted is to present Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In Him is forgiveness of sins, healing for the body, peace for the mind, counsel for living, and everything else of value.
Each man, woman, boy, and girl in the entire world must have an opportunity to see Christ on the cross as the atonement for his sins, and to accept Christ by faith and be baptized in water. This is the “Courtyard” ministry, in terms of the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
The second of the three platforms in the design for the building of the Kingdom of God is the Body of Christ, or Church, level. It is illustrated by the Holy Place—the eastern two-thirds of the building that stood in the Courtyard (when the Tabernacle was traveling toward the east). There should be frequent assemblies of Christians set aside for the experiences typified by the three articles of furniture in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle—the Table of Showbread; the seven-branched Lampstand; and the Altar of Incense (Exodus 25:23,31; 30:1).
The Table of Showbread represents the giving and receiving of the Divine Substance, the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only this Substance can feed the new man (Christ) in the believer.
The Lampstand represents the several dimensions of the communication of the Life of Christ by the Holy Spirit, as listed in I Corinthians, Chapter 12. The Altar of Incense reminds us of the spiritual intercession and worship that must take place in the assemblies of the disciples of the Lord Jesus.
The spiritual counterparts of each of the three pieces of furniture mentioned above must be developing and operating in the meetings of the Christian believers or else it will be impossible for the members of Christ’s Body ever to come to unity and maturity. It is through the three elements (the body and blood of Christ—John 6:57, the spiritual gifts and ministries—I Corinthians 14:12, and Holy Spirit-empowered worship and supplication—Acts 4:31; Jude 20) that Christ is formed in us and the overcoming strength, maturity and unity of the Body of Christ are brought into being.
The showbread, Lampstand, and Altar of Incense were not in the Courtyard but inside the Holy Place of the Tabernacle. They could not be seen except by the priests appointed to the service of the Tabernacle. They were revealed at night by the flames of the Lampstand (supernatural light of the Holy Spirit).
Does this mean to us Christians that as the cleavage comes between the world and the Church of Christ we ought to think about the wisdom of inviting the world in to observe the holy elements Christ has given for the building of His Body, the perfecting of His holy Bride? By raising this question we are not seeking to minimize the need for world evangelization.
The Courtyard of the Tabernacle contained the Altar of Burnt Offering (Christ on the cross) and the Laver (water baptism). Inside the Holy Place of the Tabernacle, hidden from the eyes of the idly curious and the unprepared, were the three furnishings portraying the body and blood of Christ, the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and the holy worship and adoration of the Father.
The two elements of the Courtyard (bronze Altar and Laver) were placed separately from the three items inside the Tabernacle (showbread, Lampstand and Altar of Incense) in that the latter were hidden from view to all except those persons called to be priests of the Lord.
Perhaps the design of the two items in the Courtyard, and then the three furnishings in the Holy Place, says something to us about the design of the assemblies of Christians.
It is possible that the efforts directed toward presenting Christ crucified to the unconverted should not also attempt to satisfy the spiritual needs of the saints (that which is conducted inside the Holy Place of the Tabernacle, as it were). The unsaved require a clear presentation of Christ crucified and the necessity for repentance and water baptism.
The disciples, on the other hand, if they are to grow properly in Christ and to walk in the Spirit of God, must have supernatural services under the guidance of experienced and godly elders. In these services the living Substance of Christ is presented, the ministries and gifts of the Holy Spirit are operating, and there is holy worship, thanksgiving, and supplication—all in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Christian believers need regularly to be reminded of the crucifixion of Christ. The purpose of the Communion service is to bring His sacrifice to our remembrance. We continually require exhortation to righteous living and encouragement toward love and good works. The growing Christians must have the three elements of the Holy Place made available to them on a consistent basis.
However, it does not seem reasonable to us, or scriptural, that the unconverted people of the community should be pressed to attend the assemblies set aside for the saints. Not only are such assemblies and teaching sessions unsuited to meeting the needs of the community at large, but the presence of groups of unconverted people will tend to detract from the unity of the spirit of the meeting of believers and to divert the supernatural and extraordinary Divine illumination and strength away from the deepest spiritual needs of the Lord’s worshipers.
The exception occurs when God is moving in a special way toward the unconverted, such as happens during periods of spiritual awakening. At these times the Spirit of God comes forth in a sovereign manner and the power of the assemblies is heightened rather than diminished by the presence of large numbers of the unconverted.
We believe, however, that during the course of ordinary living the spiritual dynamics are as we have presented them. The presence of groups of unconverted people or worldly Christians will take away from the unity of spirit and worship, and the spiritual needs of the disciples will not be met.
In many instances born-again Christians do not grow into victorious saints walking in the power of the Spirit of God. Sometimes pastors deplore the fact that the people do not lay hold on Christ as they should. Perhaps the reason is that these older spiritual “babies” do not have regular opportunity to participate in assemblies where the living bread, the anointed Word, and Spirit-directed worship are available. Babies will not grow unless they are fed.
Hopefully nothing we are saying here will lead people to believe little “bless-me” clubs are being advocated or that the work of evangelism, needed today as never before, is to be diminished. We are confident that if God’s people are given a more nourishing spiritual diet under the supervision of godly and Spirit-filled, Spirit-directed elders, the work of evangelism will be strengthened and gifted believers will go out to every nation and tribe under heaven preaching the Gospel with signs following.
The “Pentecostal” revival at the turn of this century was characterized by prayer and holy living. The result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the waiting saints was worldwide evangelism that continues to this day. It is a fact of Scripture that people will be saved when the Church is set in order.
They, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:46,47).
We notice in Nehemiah that the sheep (the saints) gate must be built before the fish (the unsaved) gate.
Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel. And next unto him builded the men of Jericho. And next to them builded Zaccur the son of Imri. But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof. (Nehemiah 3:1-3).
If we do not have assemblies of saints in which the spiritual counterparts of the three elements of the Holy Place (Table of Showbread, Lampstand, Altar of Incense) are operating, then the Christian Church, according to the fourth chapter of Ephesians, cannot be unified or grow to maturity in Christ.
We said previously that there are three concepts, or platforms, in the design of the Kingdom of God. So far we have described only two—the “Courtyard” (ministry of the cross of Christ) with the two furnishings thereof; and the “Holy Place” (Body of Christ assemblies) with the three furnishings thereof. What is the third platform?
The Tabernacle building was divided into two parts: the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. The Holy Place symbolizes, in our scheme, the Body of Christ assembly—the believers’ meeting. The Most Holy Place symbolizes the mature saint, the full overcomer, the victorious Christian. The Most Holy Place contained two furnishings combined into one piece: the Ark of the Covenant and the solid-gold Mercy Seat. This unit was the Throne of God Almighty.
We will not speak much at this point of the third phase of Christian development other than to indicate its existence. At the present time the third level is an individual experience rather than a group activity.
The full import of the Most Holy Place cannot be realized just yet as a collective undertaking nor can its relationship to the local church be established in practical terms. We are speaking now of the Most Holy Place as a type of the personal spiritual maturing of the overcoming Christian, not of the truth that the separating Veil was taken away in Christ and that through His blood every Christian on his conversion immediately has access to the throne of grace.
As the individual Christian is brought by the Holy Spirit to the third level, the Lord will direct such a person into practical relationships to the assemblies and to the Courtyard ministry. No matter how advanced a Christian becomes he has a continuing need for his brothers at all levels, and a continuing need for contemplation of Christ on the cross and His resurrection. Christ’s death and resurrection are the foundation and guiding force and principle of Christianity.
The saint frequently must turn again to the Altar of Burnt Offering in order to appropriate the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sinful deeds and motives, and to the Laver for washing away the lusts of the flesh. There must be a periodic renewal of his grasp on the fact of the dual position of his natural man on the cross with Christ and his spiritual man in the heavenlies with Christ.
The Christian disciple is on the cross and in Heaven at the same time. Water baptism represents our death with Him and our resurrection with Him. The Christian makes his dual position a reality by persevering in faith in what he declared to be true by his water baptism.
Sharing in the Lord’s Supper presses on us the memory of our Lord’s death on the cross and the need for eating His flesh and drinking His blood. The experienced prayer warrior and the newest spiritual baby come together at the foot of the cross during the partaking of Communion.
The maturing Christian, except under extraordinary circumstances or directions of the Holy Spirit, should be meeting regularly with fellow disciples in the believers’ meetings. Living the overcoming Christian life without the fellowship of the believers is a dangerous situation.
Then too, no matter how far we may get into the rest of God, into our inheritance, we are admonished by the Lord to fight alongside our brothers and sisters in the Lord until they too enter their inheritance (Joshua 1:12-15).
The preceding ideas concerning the purposes for the Christian assemblies and their activities are not intended to be a pattern everyone should follow. All such Christian services and institutions, including day schools for the education of boys and girls (since the public schools increasingly are dedicated to non-Christian values and practices), should be founded and guided under the specific leading of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit is ready to provide us with many new ways of meeting the various needs of the present time. Each burden for the work of the Lord should be “prayed through,” should be aimed at specific objectives as the Lord gives us wisdom, and should be designed and worked at in a scriptural, businesslike manner by God’s people.
Perhaps the greatest need of all is for us to turn to the Holy Spirit for the guidance and power needed to plan and carry out the institutions and activities Christ has ordained for the Kingdom of God in this hour.
It is our conviction that there will not be adequate progress toward the unifying and maturing of the Body of Christ until we set aside some services for the purpose of edifying the saints, and the saints receive and operate their gifts and ministries.
It may be ignorance of the plans and purposes of Christ that keeps us telling the same thing to the same people. The repeating of the elementary principles of the plan of salvation for many years may prevent the saints from growing in the Lord.
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1,2).
Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world to our Glory: (I Corinthians 2:6,7).
We must set aside some services as being for the saints. If an unconverted person such as an unsaved member of a family of the church, an unsaved friend, or an interested person should attend the worship service of the believers, the attention of the Holy Spirit may be directed toward him or her.
If all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: Thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. (I Corinthians 14:24,25).
The assemblies of believers, according to the Apostle Paul, are to be so full of the communication of the Life of Christ through the Holy Spirit in prophecy that any unconverted person wandering in is made transparent as the searchlight of God is focused on his or her heart.
The reader of the Book of Acts gains the impression that the early Church was not overly concerned with pleasing the local community. The Apostles preached Christ in the power of the Spirit and left the consequences with God. The early Church, although it abounded in the demonstration of the Holy Spirit through the saints, grew rapidly in numbers (Acts 2:46,47).
Here is an important principle to keep in mind: if we please God we will serve mankind well; if we attempt to please people we will serve no one well.
(“The Old Testament House of the Lord: Thirteen”, 3914-1)