"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God"
In the Old Testament the God of Israel is designated as "The Shepherd of Israel," or Pastor and Leader of the nation. When our Lord Jesus Christ declared Himself to be "The Good Shepherd" the Jewish leaders knew that He was claiming to be Yahweh in-the-flesh. Although the hierarchy rejected His claim, the elect gladly accepted it. Those who followed Him, who heard His voice, and were fed and guided and taught by Him knew Him experientially as the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd and the Chief Shepherd.
Because God has a Shepherds heart, He is greatly concerned about the "sheep of His pasture" and in this hour He is sending forth the Voice of the True Shepherd to lead His sheep back into the pastures of truth and righteousness. "My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, My flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not My flock; therefore, 0 ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require My flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouth...for thus saith the Lord God; BEHOLD, I, EVEN I WILL BOTH SEARCH MY SHEEP, AND SEEK THEM OUT. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out My sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I WILL FEED MY FLOCK, AND I WILL CAUSE THEM TO LIE DOWN, saith the Lord God. I WILL SEEK THAT WHICH WAS LOST, AND BRING AGAIN THAT WHICH WAS DRIVEN AWAY, AND WILL BIND UP THAT WHICH WAS BROKEN, AND WILL STRENGTHEN THAT WHICH WAS SICK...I will feed them with judgment" (Eze. 34:6-16).
George Warnock has commented on this passage: "Notice with what emphasis of truth the Lord declares that HE ALONE is the True Shepherd, and that HE ALONE will take the responsibility for shepherding the flock of God in His ways. 'I will, I will, I will... is constantly repeated in this passage, and He has even confirmed His intention with an oath: 'As I live, saith the Lord... True, He will use men to fulfill His purposes, as He has always done...but when we understand that GOD ALONE is the True Shepherd of the sheep, then we will come to understand that true shepherds here in the earth are only true shepherds inasfar as they walk in the ways of the True Shepherd, and speak the words of the True Shepherd, and do the works of the True Shepherd. They are not true shepherds in their own right, in virtue of some office that has been conferred upon them by God or by man.
"When Jesus came forth from the heart of God He was Gods answer to the needs of the scattered sheep of God...the One that the prophets spoke about, who would come to gather together the scattered flocks of Gods pasture, and cause them to lie down in quiet resting-places. He had the heart of the Shepherd-God, and therefore as He looked upon the multitudes who thronged about Him to hear His Word and to be healed of their infirmities, He had compassion upon them, for they were 'as sheep not having a shepherd. They were nevertheless Gods sheep...and Jesus knew that all whom the Father had given Him would come to Him and hear His voice. They would not follow the stranger. The 'stranger tried many times to get a following, and for a while there may have been a certain amount of perplexity, but the voice didn't sound quite right. Jesus said, 'A stranger they will not follow. For Jesus came forth from the heart of God to gather unto Himself the sheep whom God had given Him, and to take them back into the very heart of God, where there would be ONE fold, and ONE Shepherd. It seemed almost impossible...for even in that day there were sects and divisions amongst Gods people. There were scribes and Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians, and Zealots. All wanted to be heard, and all called for a following, but the true sheep did not hear them. Jesus also told the sheep whom He had gathered that He had many other sheep that did not belong to their fold...but that He would bring them also, so that there would be ONE fold, and ONE Shepherd" -- end quote.
Originally the New Testament Church was filled with truth and reality and spiritual power. The book of Acts gives an account of those glorious days. Unnumbered multitudes of men and women have experienced a supernatural encounter with God since that wonderful day more than 1900 years ago when the first one hundred and twenty disciples were assembled in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. Suddenly a sound was heard like the rushing of a mighty wind coming straight down from the sky, and flaming tongues of divine fire crowned the heads of those humble saints gathered there. This little band of believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, was ushered into the glory, the awe, the reverence, the holiness, and the power of the Kingdom of God as Christ the Lord returned to them in mighty Spirit, to indwell their believing hearts and reign upon the throne of their yielded lives. How they sang the songs of deliverance! How the praises of God echoed down the corridors of their souls and re-echoed among the battlements of celestial realms! With what power, signs, and wonders did they bear witness to the living presence of the Christ! God through them began to shake the entire world. The Word of God, anointed by the Holy Spirit, swept the world like a prairie fire. It encircled the mountains and crossed the oceans. It made kings to tremble and tyrants to fear. It was said of those early Christians that they had turned the world upside down! -- so powerful was their message and spirit. In spite of persecution it grew and multiplied, for God dwelt mightily in the midst of His people. The knowledge of the glory of the Lord covered the earth as the waters cover the sea. Day after day, month after month, year after year the celestial wonder continued, thousands upon thousands came to drink at the ever-flowing fountain of life, and it looked for a time as though all the kingdoms of men would be broken down, and the whole world would come marching to Zion.
But, alas! the Church had progressed only a few years into the dispensation of the Spirit when the flesh began to rear its ugly head and men began to add carnal means and methods to the pure flow of HIS LIFE. I do not believe there is any way to explain, imagine, or understand the many ways the carnal mind works. Even before the apostles had passed from this life, a spirit and system had set in among the saints of the Lord and many people were wearing the Babylonish garment. They were instituting rules and regulations, formulating creeds, observing days, establishing sacraments and ordinances, elevating human government, becoming disciples of Paul, of Apollos, of Cephas, and of many others. The babble had begun and a whole multitude of fleshly administrations was making its appearance upon the body of Christ. Before too many years had passed men began to set themselves up as "lords" (today it is called "pastor," "shepherd," etc.) over Gods people in place of the Holy Spirit. Instead of conquering by the power of the Spirit and by Truth, men began to add their ideas and their methods. Soon the glory and power and the presence of God in the morning time Church began to be eclipsed, degraded and debased by the idolatrous inventions of carnal minded men. The saints no longer moved by the power and glory of the indwelling Spirit, but became subservient to the rulership, dominion and lordship of their leaders who claimed that they alone knew the mind of the Lord, understood the word of God and possessed the wisdom of God. That which had once been beautiful and glorious became unsightly, ill-shaped, deformed, uncomely, disfigured, hideous, monstrous, and loathsome. As these false shepherds ministered among the people of God the Spirit of Christ fled from their midst and the pure vision and experience of CHRIST LIVING AND SHEPHERDING IN HIS BODY was lost to them.
In both the Old and New Testament the word for 'shepherd" and "pastor" is the same word in Hebrew and Greek. A pastor is simply a shepherd, and a shepherd is a pastor, both naturally and spiritually. The Spirit of God has dealt with me severely and consistently through many years that the Lords people should purge their conversation, purify their terminology, and remove from their consciousness the multitude of un-- scriptural and extra-biblical expressions carried over from Mystery Babylon. We have both parroted and coined a great many unscriptural terms that have been so misleading and have led us astray in our understanding of the scriptures and the wonderful plan of God. How often we, like the babes in the harlots house, refer to a minister of the gospel as "the pastor" of our church or some other congregation of saints. To hear all the Christians today constantly talking about "our pastor," "their pastor," "your pastor," "my pastor," and "the pastor," one would certainly be led to believe that this position of "the pastor" must indeed be one of the cardinal doctrines and most highly acclaimed offices in the New Testament! The fact is, precious friend of mine, the phrase "the pastor" is entirely foreign to the Word of God and non-existent in the early church. It is an un-scriptural and extra-biblical term. There was no one single man in the whole New Testament church who ever occupied a position called "the pastor." Not one church raised up by the twelve apostles or by Paul had any such ministry as "the pastor." Oh, yes, there were "pastors" plural (Eph. 4:11), but no single minister of God in the New Testament record was ever elevated to the position of "the pastor" of an assembly. The truth is that in every case in the Greek New Testament where the word for pastor (POIMEN) appears in the singular accompanied by the definite article, it is used in reference solely to our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is THE PASTOR of the flock, THE SHEPHERD of the sheep! The sweet singer of Israel stated it so aptly in his lovely Psalm when he sang out under the spirit of inspiration, "The L-0-R-D is MY SHEPHERD (pastor)!" Can we not see by this that any man who takes to himself this title "THE PASTOR," thereby usurps the place and headship of our precious Lord. And those groups who have plural ministry, but one among them is designated "the senior pastor," "head-elder," or some other such title, usurp even more blasphemously the position of our Lord Jesus Christ, since these terms are the spiritual equivalent of "Chief Shepherd". I instructed the brethren among whom I labored in years past that they should never call me "the pastor" or "their pastor" because the Lord alone I-S THE PASTOR. I may be "a pastor," but never "THE pastor." The saints were taught that if anyone came inquiring after "the pastor" they should be told that the pastor is the Lord. If they were asked, "Who is the pastor here?" they should reply, "The Lord is the pastor here!" Should the inquirer pursue the point they could then explain that Bro. Eby is one of the servants, an under-shepherd, along with elders and ministries; but THE LORD IS T-H-E P-A-S-T-0-R. We have been so completely saturated, so thoroughly brain-washed in the errors of the religious systems that we do by rote and speak by habit the ridiculous absurdities imbibed in the pews of Babylon. How astounded we are when once we learn the truth and discover that the cherished teaching or hallowed practice we have unwittingly assumed to be godly and spiritual is not only unfounded in the Word of God, but is actually an abomination in the sight of God! And should any who read these lines doubt what I say about the absence of the ministry of "the pastor" from the New Testament church, 1 invite him or her to look up the term in Strongs Concordance.
An article which has anonymously come to my desk elaborates most beautifully upon this significant point. "It will require a considerable perversion of scripture to justify any concept of 'the pastor. Have you ever observed how the writers of the Epistles greet the various churches to whom they address themselves? For example, 'Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle...to all that be in Rome. beloved of God, called to be saints. This much from the first chapter of Romans. It should be observed that Paul addresses himself to 'all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints. Paul makes no reference nor greeting to 'the pastor or to 'pastors in Rome. This omission is significant, to say the least. Had there been a 'pastor in Rome, Pauls failure to recognize him would be inexcusable if considered in the light of present-- day custom in our churches. No one of acceptable deportment in our times would think of addressing a local church without first addressing himself to 'the pastor thereof. We cannot suppose that Paul made a breach of courtesy, so, we assume that there was no 'pastor in Rome. Again, 'Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth. This much from the first chapter of First Corinthians. Once more, Paul un-- gratiates himself with 'the pastor at Corinth, by completely ignoring him. Pauls spiritual stature among the churches was not sufficient to warrant his intentional or unintentional oversight of any 'pastor at Corinth. There was at Corinth no pastor such as we have today. It is in this chapter that Paul speaks against Diotrophes spirit -- 'everyone saith, I am of Paul; and I am of Apollos; and I am of Cephas...is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? It is not at all stigmatic in our day to say 'I go to Pastor So-- and-- sos church, and 'pastors invite this sort of thinking by being known as 'the pastor of such-and-such a church. But it was not so in the beginning.
"It will come as a surprise to many of our readers that the word 'pastor occurs but once in the entire New Testament. The word 'pastor does not occur once in the entire book of Acts, that record of the founding of the first Christian churches. Only in Eph. 4:11 does it appear (and then in the plural). 'And He gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers. Does not this one single mention of this word in the entire New Testament seem all out of proportion to the position of 'the pastor as known in our times? The word 'pastors means 'shepherd or feeder. This same Greek word which in Eph. 4:11 is translated 'pastor is elsewhere in the New Testament translated 'shepherd seventeen times. Now, that this word which is but once translated 'pastor should be used only eighteen times in the entire New Testament is indeed significant, in view of the popular usage it is given today. I have heard pastors refer to themselves as 'the pastor almost as many times in just one sermon! It is quite a big word in our churches and in our thinking, but not so in the scripture. And it is time we did some serious thinking about this. It is just possible that on this point we have demonstrated again that 'that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination to God.
"It is difficult to make a study of the pastor without taking into account also the present false, carnal, unscriptural structure of our present-day 'churches. The church and the pastor of our day go hand in hand, and if someone asks 'how can you run a modern church without a pastor? the answer is simple -- you cant! You cannot run a modern church without a pastor any more than you can have a church (in the New Testament sense) with a pastor. Let us here observe something basic. 'Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23). This does not mean that Christ is only nominal head of the church, but that He is the actual and functioning head of the church. 'For the husband is head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23). Christ is resident with the church. Where two or three meet, there He is in very fact. He is there to feed, to comfort, to admonish, to manage. This thing is real, it is not just imagination, not just fancy. Christs people are given to understand that they are to have the presence of the Lord Himself among them. That the average church does not even begin to understand this is obvious by the position that they accord 'the pastor and also by the resulting ignorance that prevails among the 'laity concerning spiritual things in general. In order for Christ to be head of the church, the usual democratic machinery would have to be abandoned in favor of a direct spiritual control by the Lord Himself, a thing which our pastors, boards, committees, synods, hierarchies, cannot understand. It is amazing that we continue to try and make the old lifeless machinery produce life among us!" -- end quote.
My beloved, if ever you hope to reign with Christ YOU MUST BECOME SUBMITTED TO THE AUTHORITY OF GOD, THE SHEPHERD OF ISRAEL. And Im not talking about coming to El Paso and submitting to my ministry, or to any other man, or group of men. It is amazing how "man" conscious even many who have received the call to sonship are! They are looking for a man, a ministry, that can bring them into the Kingdom of God and into eternal life. There IS such a man, my friend -- His name is Jesus Christ. Certainly we must walk in all humility with our brethren, "submitting ourselves one to another in the fear of God" (Eph. 5:21). But true SONSHIP SUBMISSION is SUBMISSION TO THE FATHER THROUGH THE HEADSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST, for God has "put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23). "And He is the Head of the body...who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things HE might have the preeminence" (Col. 1:18). How tragic that there are so many in this hour who are "not holding the Head, from whom all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God" (Col.2:19).
There are multitudes across the land who loudly profess to have received the call to sonship who, rather than submitting themselves UNDER THE MIGHTY HAND OF GOD, submit their walk with God into the hands of others who persuade them that they are more capable than themselves to watch for their souls. The land is filled with men calling themselves apostles, elders, teachers, shepherds, etc., who desire to lord it over a flock or other mens lives, telling others what they can or cannot do, esteeming themselves spiritual enough to discern for everyone else what the will of the Lord is, though they bear no credentials other than their own word that they possess such authority. Some claim that they alone have the words of life, they among all Gods prophets have the true, deeper, spiritual, mystical revelation that will lead the sons to perfection and immortality. Not discerning the Lords body, and elevating their word and their ministry above all the Lords brethren, they draw disciples after themselves. But I tell you the truth and I lie not when I say that no man can minister to you that which he himself does not possess. If a man tells you that he possesses the secret and the truth by which you cansave your life and enter into physical immortality, yet he himself has neither stopped nor reversed the aging process, only a fool would commit their lives into his hands. Ah -- there is ONE, precious friend of mine, who HAS STOPPED THE AGING PROCESS, WHO HAS CONQUERED DEATH, WHO IS ALIVE FOREVERMORE, and this One holds the Key, He knows the Secret, He Himself IS the Truth, and I must tell you today that HE, AND HE ALONE, HAS THE WORDS OF LIFE! Yes, those words are ministered through His many brethren. Certainly there are many precious under-shepherds, true ministries HE has set in the body, humble examples to the flock, with a flow of HIS LIFE, bearing the true Word of the Lord for this hour, a source of encouragement, confirmation, and strength unto all to whom they are sent, and we praise God for them. All such true ministries bear one signal mark of distinction: they do not draw followers after themselves, they POINT ALL MEN TO THE LORD; they do not ask you to blindly submit to them, or follow them to the exclusion of the other ministries in this present truth, but they present you unto HIM WHO IS THE HEAD OVER ALL THINGS TO THE CHURCH.
I speak the truth when I say that the greatest need in this hour is for the people of God to begin to KNOW THE LORD FOR THEMSELVES. Let all who treasure the beautiful hope of sonship begin to seek God, and walk with God, and know God, and hear from God, and submit to Him in all His ways, and to His will and to His word, and GOD HIMSELF will be YOUR FATHER and you will sup with HIM and He with you. Ask the guidance of the Holy Spirit, thrust yourself in utter abandonment upon His love and care, and before you realize it you will find yourself digging deep in the storehouse of Gods treasures of wisdom and knowledge and sitting with Him at His banqueting table. He will spread a table before you in the presence of your enemies, He will lead you through green pastures; He will reveal to you fountains of living water flowing from within; He will cause you to rest beside cool, still streams; and HE, the Great Shepherd of the sheep will abide with you and your cup will overflow with the unspeakable riches of His grace and the wonder of His glorious and eternal reality.
How many are submitted to men but not to God! man will travel or move thousands of miles across the land to receive from man, but have never discovered the well within which springs up into eternal life! Their obsession with "man" reveals their own inner desolation. If you would keep the position of order in Gods house of sons you must remember that "Christ is a Son OVER HIS OWN HOUSE; whose house we are" (Heb. 3:6). He is the Head, He is the Good Shepherd, and the Great Shepherd, and the Chief Shepherd, He is the Lord, He is the forerunner, He is the firstborn who has entered in for us and opened up the way. I can assure you, dear ones, that to the degree that you KNOW HIM in intimacy of fellowship and vital union, and submit to Him in all His will, ways, and dealings, you will know His authority in your life and be strengthened to reign with Him and He will be able to reign through you in all things! It is not enough to know how God would have us think, act, and be as sons of God. There must be submission to Him, with daily inworkings of His nature, mind and power. When we obey men our authority comes from men.. When we obey God the authority comes from God. And when we obey God --we REIGN!
Our Lord Jesus Christ is THE SHEPHERD and THE PASTOR. It is also true that He has under-shepherds who assist in the care of the flock. An under-- shepherd of the Chief Shepherd is merely a slave of God going about the business assigned him by the Master. There is a wonderful lesson Jesus taught in Luke 17:7-10 wherein He says, "But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."
When Jesus speaks of the role of a servant in this passage He uses the Greek word POIMAINO which means "to act as a shepherd." God does not approve of pastors who conceive of their role as giving them the right to push the sheep around! And even more importantly, it is not the business of the under-shepherds to lead the flock! Only one shepherd can lead. Only one shepherd is The Shepherd. The Shepherd leads the flock. The under-shepherds merely flank the sides and bring up the rear in order to make sure that all the flock FOLLOWS THE SHEPHERD. It is not Gods will for any one person, pastor or pope, to rule or lead a group of people; but neither is it His will for any number of persons to rule or lead a group! In other words what is worse than a one man ministry, is a many-man ministry. We have made this mistake so often. We say we believe in plural ministry; but in so doing we create a monster by making the ministry many-headed, instead of Christ being the one Head over all. A true spiritual ministry will never seek to draw people to himself, but rather to Christ. There are many movements in the earth today stressing 'divine order" and "authority" and "submission," and one of the tests of what they teach is whether the people are being released to draw their life and substance from the Christ within or not. Many leaders and movements seek to bind people to their group and lead their followers to believe that they are the choice, select group God has chosen to complete His work in the earth, manifest sonship, and bring the sons into immortality and incorruption. Unless you are joined to them and submit to their ministry you just cant make it in! When someone leaves the group or that leader, they are made to feel as if they are missing the purpose of God, have left the body of Christ, and have repudiated the High Calling of God. You must be spiritually wise to discern the spirit of any group or individual that usurps the headship of Jesus Christ by the indwelling Spirit over His people.
Truly, the most faithful under--shepherd is not the Great Shepherd of the sheep. The brightest reflection of His beauty that is seen upon a servant, is not the revelation of Himself. Those who are closest to the Lord, who know Him best, and are more deeply conformed to His image, can only direct the searching soul to the Lord. They can never satisfy the hunger of the heart that is going out after Him. How we praise God for all the help we have received through every chosen vessel that He has used to draw us on toward Him, and into a deeper relation to Himself. With what gratitude to God, do we remember those whom He has used to point out to us a nearer approach to our glorious Lord. How tenderly do we look back upon every faithful servant and child of His, who brought us new light, who stirred within us a deeper hunger for God, who opened to us an understanding of His great plan and purpose in us, who provoked us to holy jealousy and emulation through their godly lives. How we praise God for those who warned and instructed us through the exhortation and admonition that they gave in the hour of need, or in times of weakness and immaturity. How our hunger for Reality, and abandonment to Gods will and desire to follow Him all the way to Mount Zion, have been increased as we have seen that mysterious light which shines upon the faces of those who have soared with Him into the heavenly heights. While we thank God for every instrument He uses in our lives, how little one or all of these precious ones can be, compared with our Beloved, if in any way they take His place and draw us to themselves rather than to Himself. We must esteem every servant and instrument of God "exceeding highly in love for their works sake," but we must never permit them to usurp the place of the Good and Great and Chief Shepherd in our lives and affections. Therefore the elect of God in this hour have no desire for an under-shepherd to lead them; and when they do not yield to them, they appear as though they were a stranger. But that is not it at all -- it is that the Lord Himself is becoming ALL to us!
Oh, let us once for all grasp this one great fundamental truth. Christs church is not an organization, but an organism, a body, a living reality. He, and He alone, is the Head. But when man builds an organization, or a movement, or an assembly of which he himself is the head, and when he begins to legislate and pass church laws, and formulate creeds, and institute rituals, he is merely manifesting that both the system and he himself are spurious. Of course there are Christians in these organizations: let us not lose sight of that fact. And let us not lose sight of the fact that many of the founders of these organizations were honest and sincere Christians. Yet they were ignorantly sincere. The whole trend of organization is to lead away from Christ the Head of the organism, away from the Christ within each member as the way, the truth, the life, the wisdom, the knowledge, and the righteousness of God, and it induces men to look to man, the head of the organization or movement.
It is time for the elect of God to sit up and take notice. The true sheep or the true fold are those sons of God who love to be led by Gods Spirit. The Great and Good Shepherd, Jesus, tells us, "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine" (Jn. 10:11-14). A "hireling" is simply one who has been "hired." Someone has well written: "We say that the 'pastor is 'trained and authorized in view of the fact that in just about all churches 'the pastor must be a seminary graduate and must be ordained by a body of men acceptable to the local church. An untrained and unauthorized man would not be acceptable in the average church. We say that the 'pastor is 'employed in view of the fact that he came to the local group after the offer of and acceptance of a certain consideration of monies, or, somewhere along the line it was determined that he would receive for his services a certain amount of money called a 'salary. We therefore consider him 'employed. We say he is an 'outsider with the express purpose of implying that for all practical purposes that is just what he is. The group is at any time free to replace the 'pastor or apply for his replacement, depending upon the type of political structure of the group. And the 'pastor is free at any time, upon reasonable notice, to pack up and leave. We say that 'the pastor is 'hired to perform the function of 'management over the group, and to do the feeding (preaching and teaching), and this function of management is very piously called 'service.' A pastor says, 'I served such and such a church, when the fact may more correctly be that he made them serve him" -- end quote.
When and where was there a Catholic Priest or a Protestant Minister who was not "a hired servant"? The only exceptions have been the occasional simple and devout saint, taking it upon himself to obey the call of the Spirit and go forth by faith to do the work of the Kingdom of God. The Lord Jesus said in substance, "The hireling does not care for the sheep because they do not belong to him!" Consequently, this sad fact has ever held true ever since organized religion came into being: the hired priest or minister is told in seminary the precise theology he must set forth. And he --like hired men in other professions and trades -- has had sufficient sense to do as told; otherwise he is OUT OF A JOB! As George Warnock has pointed out, "In this hour of comparative security and ease, there are thousands of hirelings ruling over the sheep. But let persecution come our way, or let some difficulty arise in the assembly that is apt to prove dangerous to the minister -- and the hireling will flee because he is a hireling and careth not for the sheep. But the true shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep. The size of the congregation, the amount of money one is to receive, the kind of place a man will have to live in -- these will not matter to the true shepherd. He will as readily preach to the ones and the twos, as to the hundreds and thousands."
Let all the saints of God thoroughly understand! There is but one Shepherd, and one fold, and the sheep know the Shepherds voice, and follow Him, and He gives them eternal life. They are all led by the Spirit of God, and are the sons of God; and they have the Spirit of Christ, and they are His. And whether they live or die, or eat or drink, they are Christs, for He died for them, and has purchased them with His blood: and therefore, they are not their own, but Christs; and so they are to glorify Him with their bodies, and souls, and spirits, which are His.
But in the world there is a multitude of shepherds, and they have their several flocks and folds; and the shepherds fall out with themselves, and with their flocks about victuals, clothes, days, times, laws, creeds and doctrines; and for a while one shepherd gets the flock, and for another while another shepherd gets the flock; and by these doings the flocks are almost plucked to pieces by the hireling shepherds, which leave the sheep in time of trouble, when they have gotten all the wool they can get off their backs, because the sheep were not their own. And thus the sheep are tossed up and down, and starved; and every shepherd shears the sheep, and plucks the wool off their backs. But Christ lays down His life for His sheep, He pours out His life to them, and abides with them, and dwells within them, in all their troubles, and persecutions, and sufferings, and wanderings, He suffers and is persecuted in His flock of sheep, when the hireling fleeth because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep, for they are none of his own. And you may see as many flocks as there are in the world, there are so many hirelings knowing them, and keeping them in the world, which the devil has made a wilderness, and a desolation, among whom it is always winter to the elect: we that are taught of Christ, and know His voice, and follow Him, Christ is to us the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd and the Chief Shepherd. Ah, my beloved, cease in Gods name from searching for shepherds and pastors to lead you; cease, I say from looking for a man to lead you, and learn the reality of truth in these words, "I am the good Shepherd; the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep" (Jn. 10:39). Learn that He is not only the Shepherd, but also the door to the sheepfold (Jn. 10:2), by which the Shepherd enters that He might call all His sheep by name and go before them that they should know no other voice but His (Jn. 10:3-6).
We have heard much over the past two decades about having a "local group for a covering," whatever that is supposed to mean. This so-- called "truth" usually refers to a pseudo-spiritual submission to men calling themselves elders, or shepherds, who desire to lord it over a flock or other mens lives, and tell others what they can and cannot do. They esteem themselves spiritual enough to discern for everybody else what the will of the Lord is, though they themselves are missing the point entirely. My brother, my sister, harken to the words of the prophet Isaiah: "Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, BUT NOT OF ME; and that cover with a covering, BUT NOT OF MY SPIRIT, that they may add sin to sin" (Isa. 30:1).
COVERING! By many this term is used to mean that each believer, being a "dumb sheep," needs the "covering" or protection of a group, or fold, presided over by men who are "shepherds". Every one is in "submission" to someone higher in the pyramid, until the whole structure becomes one vast hierarchy with just a few men or one man at the top. Each "shepherd" of a local group is "in submission" to some other higher "shepherd" and all these are ultimately submitted to an "apostle" somewhere in the world. Some rule more strictly than others over their "dumb sheep," but in general the individual believer is taught that he cannot trust his own ability to hear from the Lord, or understand the Word of God, or order his own life, but must look to his earthly shepherd to hear from the Lord for him. In many cases one dare not change jobs, move from one place to another, marry, go on vacation, or make any other decision without checking it out with his "shepherd" or the "elders." The counsel of the "shepherd" in many cases MUST be followed! Women have often been told that they must always obey their husbands wishes, even if he requires something illegal or immoral! Some are instructed as to how much of their means to "give" to the "body."
In some assemblies if a prophecy is to be given, the one who has heard from the Spirit Himself is required to gain permission from the 'pastor or 'elder or 'shepherd in order to prophesy. If permission is granted, that one is then required to leave his seat, march down front, take the microphone, and then prophesy. By then I think that the Spirits message would be, "Quench not My Spirit and touch not My prophets." Such false shepherds instruct Gods people, "Submit to church government --NO MATTER WHAT!" "Obey your leaders -- even if they are wrong!" "Dont judge the ministry!" "God placed the ministry over you. You dont second-guess their decisions. They are God4nspired!" Are YOU victim to this kind of "inspired teaching"? If so, danger is stalking your eternal life. Isn't it time you asked yourself, "What is behind such totalitarian rhetoric?" The tactic is simple. You are being intimidated. Through raw and robust fear tactics, you are SCARED INTO OBEDIENCE TO MEN -- not to God. Your mind is being conditioned to accept -- without thinking and without proof -- everything such preachers say. You are being brainwashed to behave like spiritual zombies. The mind of Christ in you is being raped!
Now, not all who teach "the covering" are that extreme, but for many of them the half has not been told. There is a great emphasis on the term "covering" as being necessary for each member, for protection from harm and deception. If we do not have this "covering" of the local fellowship, or elders, or shepherds, then, we are told, we cannot discern the will of the Lord, cannot understand the Word of the Lord, will be overcome by our adversary, will fall into sin or delusion, or the present world system will destroy us. I am frankly appalled at the shallowness, gullibility, and lack of spiritual discernment and maturity among the people of God, for they give heed continually to the voice of such strangers, but the voice of the Good Shepherd they do not know. Why are the children of God so ready to blindly accept every subtle and plausible teaching that is thrust at them, without earnestly seeking the help of the blessed Spirit WHO ALONE HAS BEEN SENT TO GUIDE US INTO ALL TRUTH. Any preacher today who can come up with some fantastic notion can corral Gods people under his authority, and the more fantastic the notion the more people run after it. I do not hesitate to tell you that I know of no greater deception that has entered in among the Lords sheep during the past twenty years than the error of the "covering" teaching.
Where, I ask, WHERE DOES THE SCRIPTURE GIVE EVIDENCE THIS APPLICATION OF THE WORD "COVERING" IS LEGITIMATE? I know of no place! Where in the whole Bible, I ask, is the husband called a "covering" for his wife? Where in the entire Bible are elders called a "covering" for the church? In what place is the church spoken of as a "covering" for believers? Where is the chapter and verse to be found that refers to an apostle as a "covering" for other ministers? Where is the scripture that teaches that unless a traveling ministry is under the "covering" of some local assembly he is not to be received? 'WHERE DOES IT SAY IT! Ah, my friend, you may search long and hard, you may burn the midnight oil, you may read and study until your eyes are red and vision blurred, until you lapse into fitful sleep with Bible and reference books scattered on the desk before you; and I can assure you without fear of contradiction that your most diligent and persistent efforts shall prove fruitless and in vain! We are blind readers indeed if we do not readily see that the fact of the matter is that the "covering" doctrine in all of its ramifications is foreign to the Word of God! You will have to tear the Bible all to pieces if you teach such doctrine.
The time has come when people no longer endure sound doctrine but are turned to fables. Many false Christs and false prophets and spurious forms of religion are going forth into all the world. Some time ago a dear sister stopped to visit with us for a few hours, and during the course of our conversation she asked a most momentous question. She wanted to know what, in my opinion, is the greatest danger present among Gods people in this hour. I could only reply that the greatest danger I perceive today is that of Gods saints being BROUGHT INTO BONDAGE TO MEN. And I will tell you frankly that there are a thousand and one different schemes and distortions of truth and departures from living reality being concocted by subtle, clever, conniving and power-hungry preachers to bring the saints into bondage to men.
"For at one time you were darkness itself, but now IN UNION with the Lord you are light itself. You must live like children of light" (Eph. 5:8, Williams translation). A dear brother has aptly written: "The word of emphasis right now surely must be upon the word 'UNION, for it is only by virtue of our union with Rim that He in us is this light so vitally needed. And it seems that all the negative forces in the world today are arrayed against this union, so that we would turn away from Him for the allure of the world. But while they promise light and freedom, 'of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage (II Pet. 2:19). So subtle are the devious ways of the adversary, that if you cannot be enticed into outright sin and forsaking of the way of truth, then the enemy would cause you to become so religious, working a spiritual pride, or a false humility, or perhaps the allure of one to be your shepherd, or covering, or spiritual mentor, just anything to keep you from that vital, personal UNION with Christ as your HEAD, so that in ONENESS WITH HIM you are led by His Spirit. If ever we live like children of light, it will be because of our UNION WITH HIM WHO IS LIGHT."
I feel to share further from another precious brother to whom the Lord has given great wisdom for this hour: "God is always faithful to send forth true ministries to bring His people into new ways in God, when the time comes for His people to enter in. And God is faithfully doing this today. That is why it is so important that the ministry, as well as the people, 'hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches... lest the ministry on the one hand assume a place of carnal authority and leadership that has no relation to what God is doing today...and lest the people on the other hand submit to such authority under the false notion that it is the highway to the Kingdom of God. The ministry has amply fulfilled its purpose on earth if it succeeds in declaring HIM, speaking about HIM, and leading others INTO DIRECT UNION WITH HIM. And having fulfilled this divine objective they should be willing to just 'fade away, as it were, as Moses and Elijah faded away on the Mount of Transfiguration...that the people of God might 'HEAR HIM and see 'JESUS ONLY. Moses and Elijah have an important part to play...and the ministry that is sent forth from the throne as Gods gift to the body of Christ has an important role to fulfill. But they are important for one purpose only, and that is TO BRING MEN INTO CLOSER UNION WITH CHRIST, WHERE THEY CAN HEAR HIS VOICE, AND SEE HIS FACE, AND HAVE PERSONAL AND INTIMATE COMMUNION WITH HIM WHO IS THE HEAD.
"As the government of Christ increases in the hearts of His elect, then the messengers of Christ must decrease. As the heart of a true son begins to develop and mature, then the servant (under-shepherd) must be quick and anxious to loosen the ties of allegiance that somehow may have come into being as lie sought to lead Gods sons into maturity, and encourage them to walk ALONE WITH GOD. Alone, I say, because no matter how many thousands there are who are walking with you and with God...your walk with God is intended to be very individual and unique. Ministry in the Holy Place must give way to sonship in the HOLIEST OF ALL, as Faith gives way to Hope, as Hope gives way to Love, as the Blade gives way to the Ear, as the Ear gives way to the Full Corn in the Ear, as bondage in Egypt gives way to a walk of discipline in the Wilderness, as the Wilderness gives way to Fruitfulness in the Land of Canaan. In other words, the ministry has fulfilled its purpose if it has been successful in bringing the people of God into direct, intimate union with the Lord!
"The purpose of all ministry that proceeds from the exalted Christ is to so minister the Truth that the sheep of Gods pasture might come into direct, unhindered personal union with the Lord. They make disciples FOR CHRIST, BUT NONE FOR THEMSELVES. In still another analogy, Gods ministers are gardeners: those who plant the seed, or those who water the growing plant, or those who reap the harvest. They must not meddle with the seed, or with the growing plant. GOD IS THE HUSBANDMAN, and He it is that giveth 'the increase. 'So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; BUT GOD THAT GIVETH THE INCREASE! (I Cor. 3:7)" --end quote.
Ah, yes, we do need a "covering"! The Spirit has revealed this over and over again in numerous ways, through types, and shadows, and forms, and inspired utterances through all His holy prophets since the day that Adam and Eve were clothed by the Lord God in Edens lovely Garden. One cannot help but notice with what emphasis the Lord declares that HE ALONE is the true covering and the true coverer: "And I have put My words in thy mouth, and I HAVE COVERED THEE IN THE SHADOW OF MINE HAND, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art My people" (Isa. 51:16). "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord.. .for HE HATH CLOTHED ME WITH THE GARMENTS OF SALVATION, HE HATH COVERED ME WITH THE ROBE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Isa. 61:10). "HE SHALL COVER THEE WITH HIS FEATHERS, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler" (Ps. 91:4). When our Lord Jesus Christ came forth from the heart of God He stood in the temple and wept over Jerusalem as He reproached the people with these sorrowful words: "0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Mat. 23:37). Oh, child of God, I pray that the truth of these things will grip your heart! Let every saint of God who treasures the bright hope of sonship RECOGNIZE THE LORD A-L-0-N-E AS THEIR COVERING!
Why, oh why, is it not possible for the Lords people to see that any "covering" except THE LIFE OF THE LAMB is naught but withering fig-leaves which in due time fall away and fail to cover sufficiently, leaving the flesh exposed. To say that we need men, or pastors, or elders, or shepherds, or anyone at all other than the Lord Jesus Christ to "cover" us or "lead" us will surely bring spiritual stagnation, or worse, spiritual death. Nothing will avail but the ANOINTING OF LIFE which comes alone from the Holy Spirit within as we seek the Lord with all our hearts. After more than forty years of ministry among Spirit-filled saints I testify to you that never, in all these years, have I witnessed a quickening flow of HIS LIFE, never have I seen saints being truly conformed to the image of Christ, never have I observed a people approaching spiritual maturity, never have I seen saints coming to KNOW GOD FOR THEMSELVES, and never have I beheld sons coming to glory in any group where MEN OR ELDERS RULE OVER GODS PEOPLE, OR BECOME A COVERING FOR THEM, OR SET THEMSELVES UP AS 'THE SHEPHERD OR 'THE APOSTLE OR 'THE ANOINTED MINISTRY ORDAINED TO BRING GODS SONS INTO LIFE AND INTO THE KINGDOM. In every case they are only successful at bringing horrible bondage, delusion, and spiritual stagnation to the people of the Lord. These words may be difficult to receive, my friend, but they are the plain, simple, powerful truth.
Invariably, in the history of Gods dealings, the Lords people have grown weary in pursuing the full inheritance of God for themselves, and as the vison grows dim before their drowsy eyes they become impatient in spirit and are willing to turn their walk with God into the hands of others whom they deem more capable than themselves to possess the land. This is what happened in the early days of Israel, after they had become settled in the land of their inheritance. God had been their Lord and King from the time He called them out of bondage, and drew them apart into a special relationship with Himself. But now in time of Samuel, with many enemies about remaining to be subjected, and much development of the kingdom still before, they began to grow weary with it all, and desired a king, like the nations about them. How this grieved the heart of God! All along, and right from the beginning, their very existence as a nation was by reason of the fact that God longed for an inheritance of His own in a people that were separate from other people, and very much unlike the nations. He desired to lead them, protect them, feed them, teach them, rule over them, bringing them into union with Himself, to walk in His truth, in His ways, in His holiness, in His life, clothed upon with the indescribable majesty of HIMSELF -- ONE WITH HIM in all things. "Make us a king!" they demanded of Samuel, "someone to go out before us, and to fight our battles for us, someone head and shoulders above us who can secure the victory for us." Pursuing the vision of God, and seeking out His will for our lives has become burdensome to many people. "Give us a leader," they clamor, "someone who will tell us what we are supposed to do, someone who will preach to us, study for us, pray for us, prophesy to us, find the will of God for us, and unfold the way into sonship in ten easy lessons!"
God will let them have it! If you want a covering other than the Christ within, if you want a shepherd other than the spirit of the Good and Great Shepherd within, God will let you have it. If you want men to rule over you, rather than learning to know God for yourself and walk with God in the Spirit, you will get it! There are many around who would just love to RULE YOU! There are many waiting in the wings to become your MENTOR, your PROPHET, your GURU, your LEADER! I can direct you to quite a number who would be delighted to become YOUR SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM -- YOUR COVERING! "Jonestown" and "Waco" with all their horrible extreme of the dominating authority of man, should be warning examples to all Christians who give blind obedience to their leaders or who are looking for "a man" to be their spiritual authority, instead of looking to the CHRIST WITHIN as the hope of glory. And let me share a further word. Any counsel or advice or supposed "Word of the Lord" through man MUST BE CONFIRMED TO 0-U-R H-E-A-R-T-S before we accept it! If someone -- even one you revere as a prophet -- tells you that God wants you to do this or that concerning an area wherein you (not that someone) have the RESPONSIBILITY for the action and the outcome, then politely listen, but do NOT do what they say. Wait for God to confirm the order through someone else and, more importantly, within your own heart and spirit. If there is no witness -- no knowing within yourself -- forget it!
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage...for, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another" (Gal. 5:1,13). "These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth IN YOU, and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him" (I Jn. 2:26-27). Oh, yes! The adversary loves it if he can make us afraid to hear from God ourselves! Afraid to trust the CHRIST WITHIN! But, "My sheep hear My voice (not the voice of strangers or hirelings) and I know them, and they follow ME. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand" (Jn. 10:27-30). I rejoice with exceeding great joy and my soul shouts unending hallelujahs, for I have found THE SHEPHERD! His name is Jesus Christ. He lives in me, speaks in me, leads in me. I tell you today that He alone is MY SHEPHERD. I shall never seek another.
I will close this message by sharing an anointed word from the pen of Sister Alma McClure. "Dont be deceived or intimidated by those who say you must have a 'spiritual covering of MEN or WOMEN! Or an organization! We have the best covering there can be in our Lord. The arm of flesh will fail, whether it is called apostle, prophet, pastor, bishop, elder,...or pope! Was everyone in the scriptures under the spiritual oversight of some man or group? Consider! Abraham heard God and obeyed Him. He had no other spiritual covering. Moses forsook Egypt and all of mans authority, and had his commission, and his step by step instructions from the Lord alone. God spoke to him, mouth to mouth. Davids preparation for rulership began on the lonely hillsides, keeping his fathers sheep, and playing his harp, communing with the God of heaven. Later, he received further preparation as he endured the lonely days in the dens and caves of the wilderness, with those who joined him there, as he fled from the persecution of King Saul, who sought his life. Joseph, betrayed by his brethren who hated him, had no earthly 'spiritual covering of man, but learned by the processings of the Lord, and had his times of close communication with Him, as a slave, and as a prisoner of the king. Jobs communication with God was direct, without man's 'covering'. In fact, the three 'friends who tried to give him advice (and condemnation), were brought down in shame, as they were reproved by God, and had to accept prayer from Job, in order to be forgiven and accepted of God, for their words were not right. Enoch had no earthly 'covering, but walked with God, and found favor and acceptance with Him, and was not for God took him. Elijah walked alone with God, responsible only to HIM! God spoke to and dealt directly with Noah, who was obedient and found favor with God, while all others, aside from his family, were destroyed. Daniel and his three friends had no group as a 'covering. They simply remained true to the Mighty One of Israel and heard from HIM. We could list a multitude of others, including Deborah, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, etc., etc.
"In the New Testament, the outstanding example is the apostle Paul. Hear his testimony: 'The gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. But when it pleased God who separated me from my mothers womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen; immediately conferred not with flesh and blood; neither went I up to Jerusalem (to the church leaders) to them who were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus (Gal. 1:11-17).
"Beloved, God has a company now, called out of mans religious systems, who are separated UNTO HIMSELF, that He alone many lead them, and teach them, and process them, and use them for His glory, as Firstfruits, to minister love, mercy and deliverance to creation!" -- end quote. To which I add a hearty "Amen!"
J. PRESTON EBY
Back to Directory
If you would like to receive these studies write to:
J. Preston Eby
P.O. Box 371240
El Paso TX 79937-1240
All writings are distributed on a free-will basis.
Homepage | Pathfinder Directory | Elwin's Directory | Margit's Directory | Kingdom Links