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Foundation Truth, Number 27 (Winter/Spring 2011) | Timeless Truths Publications

Licensed to Preach

Part 1

“And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”* (Revelation 15:2-3)

A brother remarked in Sunday School class that very few of God’s children enjoyed the victory over the image of the beast, or over his mark, or over his name. This is unfortunately true.

A man and his wife had been backslidden, but had gotten back to God. In times past, they had lived and preached among a group of people who had considerable freedom in the Holy Spirit, and who, at the time that these two were reclaimed, still held a long tradition and custom of that liberty. In time, the man and his wife began to exercise themselves among the various congregations and in the various general meetings of these people. They did not need to seek permission from men to do this, as there was no formal recognition structure necessary to be allowed to preach and teach. But they were aware that they were being watched and evaluated by the current leaders of the group of people. In due time, a ministers’ meeting was called to question them, and they were given “the third degree.” All kinds of questions were posed, mostly to examine whether they had done something while they were in sin that would disqualify them from preaching. This was accomplished by sincere human effort; I am afraid that the Holy Ghost did not inspire much if any of it. There was not anything that would utterly block their acceptance, according to their testimony, so one of the “main ones,” of whom they were most apprehensive, finally said that he saw no reason why they could not work among them. At that point, the questioning stopped, and they were licensed to work among this people. In this way, they entered into the unity of these people and were accepted of them.

Now in all matters of outward form, this was exactly the same procedure that had been followed back in more spiritual times. But now the outlook of the ministry was subtly different. The ministry was nowhere near spiritual enough to have been “ordaining them all along,” so to speak. There was not the degree of discernment of how damaged they had been in sin, nor of how well recovered they were from where they had been. In the past, Holy Ghost men and women were enabled of God to deal with such cases, but this was no longer true of this body of ministry. Other things they were doing, other things they had permitted, and other things they had not permitted showed a cloudy and fuzzy grasp of practical, working truth. They were proceeding down the road to an accounting for their lack of spirituality; they had not the spiritual unity of the Bible. In many ways, their lives, ministries, and fruit were portrayed in Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”

It is dangerous to hold the truth in unrighteousness; it is dangerous to try to carefully observe the form of godliness, but to deny the sweeping power of the gospel across the board. God will not support you if you do. He will let your words fall to the ground; He will allow you to be confounded; He will leave you to your own devising and your own doings. God warns all that presume in this manner: “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.”* (Isaiah 50:11) It is a terrible thing to grieve God so that He largely ignores you and leaves you to yourself.

Was the Apostle Paul afraid that the saints would never accept him because he had persecuted the church of God? No. At first, there was excellent reason to suspect that he was less than sincere, because of his past (which was truly horrible), but he committed all that to God and obeyed God. “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.”* (Galatians 1:15-17) Note the absence of the fear of man. He knew his calling was of God, and he knew that all who were truly of God would receive what God was doing in him, even if they doubted it at first. This is the correct and rightful attitude of a newly-called brother or sister. If I am right before God, then He will adjust things between me and others in His church. Yea, “A man’s gift maketh room for him.”* (Proverbs 18:16) And thus it was with Brother Paul. The gift bestowed upon him by God made room for him among others of the Lord’s children, regardless of the now-forgiven past.

But back to the candidates for licensing. They were questioned extensively, even embarassingly. Probed. Cross-examined. Why? Did not fruit manifest itself? Is not God able to prove His own ministers if we follow the steps He has given us? “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.”* (1 Timothy 5:22) There is something about being in the order of God overall that takes a certain urgency out of the picture in this matter. If the work has been built up as the Lord does it, there is a certain elasticity (from the knitting of the Holy Ghost, Colossians 2:2,19) and strength in the individual experiences of each saved member of the congregation(s) that is nearly impossible to breach as long as the Lord defends the sheep (Psalm 127:1; Matthew 16:18). There is an understanding of how God allows His people to be tried and tested. “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.”* (Daniel 12:10) Those who are called by God to the ministry understand this process, for they came up through it, too, and they know that all things work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to His purpose.”* (Romans 8:28) The work is not built up through personal influence and the skill of men. Therefore the holy can afford the wonderful luxury of trusting the Lord with each new development. They have no personal investment beyond what the Lord has commanded them to do. If the rich, young rulers reject the gospel and go away sorrowful, they let them go (howbeit with sorrow), because God lets them go. They understand that God shakes the church so that the things which cannot be shaken will remain (Hebrews 12:27). And under these conditions, an ordination is nothing more or less than a ratifying of what God has already done. It is recognition, rather than authorization. In God’s church, His ordaining is simply recognized by the membership. God authorizes and endues; His children recognize and make room.

But if I haven’t done it God’s way, then I get worried—and I have reason to get worried. Now I am in charge. I have to get up early and stay up late. It is vain for me to exert myself in this way, for I am attempting to do God’s part (Psalm 127:1-2), but this is the way it goes if I am not trusting God to keep and build as only He can do. This way of thinking shows itself as feeling “something must be done.” There is too much at stake (of my own doing in the name of God, not His doing) that is at risk if I let someone preach unless they meet my criteria. I cannot “let go and let God,” for I have an agenda of my own, namely, the holding together of a group of people whether God wants them held together in that way or not. This puts an anxiety in my approach, rather than faith and confidence in God’s ability to manage His own work; and in reality, it is not His work since I have taken it into my own hands.

And this is what happened to the couple mentioned above. They “got their license” to preach among a certain people. If they were exercising themselves among a spiritual people, and they were spiritual people, then their gift from God would have made room. But the people they joined did not and do not have the victory spoken of in Revelation 15:2-4: “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.”

“We stand upon the sea of glass
That’s mingled with Jehovah’s fire;
Our robes are white, our feet as brass;
We stand upon the foe’s empire.

“We bow no more to gods of men;
We shout the victory o’er the beast,
Yea, o’er his mark and o’er his name;
We overcome through Jesus Christ.”*

To have this victory is to be delivered from the fear of man. The fear of all men. It is to operate out of perfect love to God and trueness to Him. It is to have that independence which is most Christlike. Of which the writer said, “Our dearest friend on earth must not be allowed to cause us to deviate one hair’s breadth from trueness to God.” This is very true, and is proven in the Bible. Paul was playing on his harp on the sea of glass when he reproved Peter publicly for not living up to light by avoiding eating with the uncircumcised brethren. He could have easily thought, “Peter is much more established than I. He was around when I was persecuting the church, etc. It is not my place to reprove him.” But no! Brother Paul was utterly faithful to God, regardless of what others might think. Utter faithfulness to God would have taken the fear out of the couple in the ministers’ meeting. If living a saved and sanctified life, preaching truth with anointing and power, is not enough for a group of people to recognize and appreciate the living God within you, then why bow to the workings of men? Why come under a yoke that is not of God? Why give place to a rival to the love of God? When faced with similar circumstances, the wholly-sanctified, burned-out-for-God brethren said, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”* (Acts 4:19-20)

It is the contention of groups of those who would control what happens among them (rather than letting God control things), that an individual must submit to the group. To do otherwise, they contend, is evidence of an independent spirit. We agree that it is evidence of a spirit of independence from them. Only if it is a spirit of independence from truth, then it is wrong and should not be accepted.

It takes a high degree of spirituality, involving a great deal of faith and confidence in God, to “let go and let God.” It is much easier to say it than to do it. It is much easier to accept it as a doctrine than to carry it out as a practice. Yet it is the essential difference between Holy Spirit government and a government by much-trusted brethren. The two ways are very different ways. Those who follow Holy Spirit government have a very different attitude from those who follow the many ways of man-in-control.

I am thinking of a ministers’ meeting that occurred perhaps seventy-something years ago. The meeting was called because a brother had become corrupted in a doctrine he taught and held. The minister who related the account to me had been a young minister in the gathering. He listened as the brethren reasoned and expounded truth to that brother. They weren’t getting anywhere for a long time, then suddenly the brother said, “All right. I see that now.” Immediately, all the brethren began making preparations to leave. They accepted what he said, and that was the end of it. But the young minister told me that he wasn’t satisfied. He asked his mother, “No tears? No repentance?” And she replied, “Son, for that minister to say that, means more than for most people to weep and cry.”

Now I marvel at the depths of spirituality that made it possible for those saints to work with God for the “ironing out of a wrinkle” in His church. The waiting on God, the forbearing in love and longsuffering, the meekly-holding-the-true-position-standing-firm, and the holy outcome all speak of a victory that is all too rare today. Surely the saints were playing the Song of Moses upon the transparent sea, mingled with Jehovah’s fire. Nor did the brother who was off come under any other yoke than the yoke of pure love to God and His truth. He could still say after the meeting, “No earthly master do we know; to man-rule will not bow.”

I am well aware that the proponents of human executive action will not find reproof in this incident. They will take the scriptures, such as Hebrews 13:7,13,24, which speak of “them that have the rule over you,” and ignore 1 Peter 5:5, which states, “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” These scriptures come together in one mighty truth: We are all subject to truth. We are all subject to our supreme Ruler, the Holy Ghost. We can avoid usurping the place of the Holy Spirit with each other by staying in our place in the body where He has assigned us. Then we look to God to do what is needed after we have done just what He commissioned us to do. If the incident quoted above, the brethren did not back off dealing with the brother about the truth. Nor did they condemn him and set him down, for the Holy Spirit opened to their eyes the fact that he was honest and sincere. When he did see the truth, they left everything in God’s capable hands, having done what He commanded them to do, and returned to the different burdens He had given to each. In this way, they trusted God with His work.

This is important enough to spend further time with it. Let us suppose that the brother had not been sincere. Let us suppose that he had attempted to accommodate the brethren, so as to “fit” among them. What might have happened then? Herein is manifest the difference between people directed by the Holy Spirit and those who are directed by something else. If the Spirit of God said, “Wait and let it prove out itself some more,” then so would those brethren have done. If the Spirit of God said, “Do not receive this,” then they would not have received it, and future developments would have proved out that something else was there than a pure love for God and truth.

But in any case, the Bible principle of loyalty to God and truth above anything else would have been borne out. For the tempered mortar that holds the lively stones of the church of God together also holds them apart. God never meant for the members of the body to affirm allegiance to each other with Him not in between them. He meant for the members to each individually love Him perfectly, with each other perfectly committed to God. Therefore, the unity of the church of God is only through God. It is not member-to-member directly. It is member-to-member through the Head. It is to know no earthly master. It is to know a heavenly Master. It is God in and through each holy brother. It is God, all in all. “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see GOD.”* (Matthew 5:8)

The fear of man exposes the thing for what it is: a transaction of men to men. Victory over the fear of man is one of the hallmarks of spiritual government. This snare, the fear of men, is replaced by an extreme carefulness to know and do the will of God.

To enter into an affinity with a group of people is to acquire their number and their name. Then you are accepted and can buy and sell in that place. But this will not work in the Kingdom of Heaven. It may look the same for a while. It looked as if Simon had really been converted in Acts 8. He was baptized. But then another fruit manifested itself. He was reproved, even asked for prayer to escape the consequences of his condition. But among the New Testament saints, there was only the name of Jesus. No number. Just truth. It’s either all out for Jesus and truth, or nothing. God has either fixed you so you are in, or you are out. Saints on the sea of glass wait on God to see which it is. They won’t get off the clearness, mingled with heavenly fire, to reason with you. They just keep playing those harps. They just keep holding and preaching the truth. They are not afraid.

When a sister who was teaching in a certain congregation thought she had sufficient influence to intimidate the pastor to follow the path of teaching that she wished to pursue, she offered to resign, reasoning that he could not afford to let her resign and risk the disapproval of men. He looked her in the eye and said, “I accept your resignation.” Thus he stayed on the sea of glass with the purifying flames of sanctifying love burning in his heart. It didn’t matter what it cost in attendance. He committed it all to the Head. It wasn’t the preacher’s work. It was God’s. Hallelujah! “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”* (Mark 12:30) Yea, “perfect love casteth out fear.”* (1 John 4:18) How glorious to be delivered from fear! “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”* (Hebrews 13:6)

“Let scoffers scoff, let scorners sneer,
My heart is full of peace;
They cannot take the joy I feel,
Nor make my hope to cease.

“They cannot quench the fire of love
That burns within my breast,
Nor break that tender fellowship
That makes my life so blest.”

“They cannot bring again the sins
The blood has washed away,
Nor make my heart like stone once more,
Nor turn to night my day.”*

If a given group doesn’t accept me, and I am straight and clear before God, then He will have something else for me to do elsewhere in His vineyard. Oh, the blessedness of being saved, of being really clear before God! It means more than anything. Men did not save me, nor can they. Men have no heaven for me to go to. I have found something that is beyond price, and I have paid all to be in fellowship with God. Hallelujah! One man with God is a majority. I would rather be right with God and in His order than to have the approval of anything else. There is neither number nor name that can tempt me away from Him. Yea, He is one among a thousand. He is the Chief. To Thee, O Lord, be power and dominion, forever and ever. Amen.

The Evolvement of Man-rule

The realities of living in a cold world of iniquity with an active 24/7 adversary who never needs to slumber or sleep is constantly before the children of God. As the poet put it,

“My soul, be on thy guard;
Ten thousand foes arise,
And hosts of sin are pressing hard
To draw thee from the skies.”*

This is not an exaggerated picture. There are indeed ten thousand foes from hell of all types and kinds, to say nothing of the many sinking sands of human nature and the “I think” spirit. Were the godly not kept by Him who never fails to see a single development of the enemy, we would not have any chance at all, but the Lord knows how to keep us and preserve us from the world even while we live in the world. Praise His name! He has made a way through. He has been guiding and shielding saints for centuries along the path of holiness, and He will get us to glory, too, if we will let Him.

There is a way that seems right to a man—even the path of attempting to hold the truth by the efforts of human discipline, self-will, and human intelligence and watchfulness. This is the path into which many children of God are seduced, particularly those who are strong-minded and strong-willed. Perhaps we could describe it as “doing my best for God,” instead of a death-to-self stand of “Without Him, I can do nothing.” However we attempt to describe it, it will cause us to take the work of God into our own hands in the name of doing our best to please Him. Instead of Christ triumphing in us, it becomes us triumphing for Christ; and there is a world of difference in the two ways.

There are many different aspects of living for God that could be discussed profitably from this standpoint of for Christ instead of Christ-triumphing-in-me. But we want to talk about the need of recognition, or to put it another way: whom do I receive; whom do I hear and accept?

This question is before any child of God (and any group of Christians) all the time. The weight of it is addressed by our Lord when He said, “Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.”* (Luke 8:18) In the book of Mark, this statement is rendered, “Take heed what ye hear.”* (Mark 4:24) Since any child of God walks with God on a voluntary basis at all times, it is possible for any man or woman of God to choose to change and not walk with God as perhaps they have done hitherfore. In addition to this possibility, a child of God may come under an influence that temporarily blinds or hinders them. Under such a disadvantage, they may be as Brother Peter, of whom it was said, “he wist not what to say.”* (Mark 9:6) We can trust the Lord within us all the time, but all flesh (including our own) is vanity, and there is only one frame that we can explicitly trust all the time, and that is Jesus. This way of no-confidence-in-the-flesh and all-confidence-in-God will prove out all the time, but it is possible to be seduced by thinking of each other more highly than is written (1 Corinthians 4:6).

It is a higher-than-written confidence to think that all the ministers together cannot make a mistake, or to think that so-and-so, who has been used of God in the past, is worthy of unquestioning confidence. Our Lord never makes a mistake, has never had to “scratch His head,” and never needs to experiment or learn from experience. The government of His church is upon His shoulders for a reason. None of the most devout and pious of the finest of His people is anywhere close to being qualified for that responsibility, nor shall they ever be, in this life or out of it.

But the reverence and respect that should be offered only to God is frequently and commonly offered to a minister or a body of ministers. There is something about offering it or receiving it that is blinding. It seems deserved. It seems meritable. It seems that it is only recognizing a reality. But it inevitably leads to men looking to men, instead of men looking to God.

It appears that the fear of God is upon them. They pray as if they are looking exclusively to God. But there is a subtle thing planted, and it is at work. “How do the others feel?” “I certainly don’t want to develop an independent spirit.” And some are regarded as more spiritual than others.

“I don’t get it,” you say. “Some do live closer to God. Some are more used of God than others.” Perhaps you would contend that the Bible teaches this. You might say that Peter, James, and John were an “inner circle.” You might believe that Paul was regarded (properly) as more gifted than others, therefore he should be given more weight, although this is balanced by his past history, etc. And perhaps you might be thinking that if you had lived back then, you would think, “Ah! Brother Paul is speaking.” And you would give more weight to his words than, say, to Brother Cephas or some other brother or sister whom the Bible does not even name out for us. But the Bible record itself does not show that kind of partiality. The brethren of the New Testament do not display that kind of thinking. Indeed, in 1 Corinthians, Paul makes a very clear case that it is the result of carnality. James does the same in his book, calling it double-mindedness. And Peter tells us, “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility.”* (1 Peter 5:5)

When we look at the history of Christianity throughout the centuries, particularly the detailed and voluminous records of the holiness Protestant sects, we are absolutely amazed at the human church governments that were erected in the name of the Lord to provide order and structure. The purity, consecration, the blessing from above, and the holy devoutness of many of these brethren is beyond question. To read their writings now is inspirational. They had something from God, beyond question, and it is high arrogance and wicked foolishness to be so prejudiced against them as to glibly assume that they just didn’t have light back then, but we do now. Such an attitude is full of pride and silly assumptions. They had a lot of light—hard-won light—and they lived to it. Just a little research into the lives of such men as John and Charles Wesley, Elmer Shelhammer, Rob French, and Beverly Carradine would serve to uproot and send tumbling such shallow prejudice. A careful reading of Sister Cowman’s books, such as Streams in the Desert, volumes 1 and 2, and Springs in the Valley, will reveal many quotes from writers all down the centuries of Christianity which are full of Holy Ghost insight. These are precious treasures and very helpful to holy living, although—it must added—there are traces of man-fear, a lack of vision of God’s church in certain respects, and other false doctrines that persistently show themselves in places.

And with all that, the much good and a little of the bad, they found themselves hopelessly divided from each other, and while desiring fervently to all be one in Christ Jesus and acknowledging it was a reproach that they were not, they were unable to break down the walls of partition between them. Furthermore, some of them were around when division walls began to fall and the full implications of being all the Lord’s began to come to the fore. Shelhammer rejected the light of the Evening Light Reformation of 1880 and did not feel that men could live spiritual enough to all be one in Christ Jesus; he feared that calling people out of all the groups would only form another group.

It took then and it takes now a death to self and an absolute abandonment to God, without the slightest compromise in that abandonment, to lay hold on “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”* (Jude 1:3) I want to say again, it has always been like this, and it is still like this. And to get less than this is to buy into an illusion—the delusion that comes from not loving God and His truth with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).

But if you are an apologist for the Methodist Church or some other work of men’s hands, you would surely say to me: “But brother, how can such holy men—such consecrated men—miss the will of God by forming a church government which is not scriptural or right?”

And I would reply, “It was not deliberate. It was not rebellion. If it had, then God would not have blessed them the way they were blessed—He would have left them entirely to their own devices.”

“Well, what was it then?”

Answer: God blesses us as much as we let Him bless us. If we take a certain stand toward a certain area in our life that is not sound in the eyes of the Holy Ghost, He will strive with us and deal with us in that still, small voice that must be listened for carefully to hear what is said. But if we override all checks without outright rebellion and ignore inconvenient reproof, He will stop bothering us about our chosen pathway most of the time, while still blessing us as much as is possible in what we have kept that is holy and sound. Then is brought to pass the saying that is written, “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.”* (Jeremiah 2:19)

God did not stop Abraham from having a baby with Hagar; He did not say, “If you do this, I will no longer bless you,” but in the end, the child of bondage had to be rejected. And thus it is with God. He is too good and merciful to totally withdraw unless we totally withdraw; He blesses each of us all that He can. With the froward, He shows Himself unsavoury, while with the pure, He shows Himself pure (2 Samuel 22:27). Behold the fairness and equitableness of the Almighty!

As it always is with each step taken away from God, there is a lack of peace and a diminishing of the prior blessing that is a warning of God’s disapproval. If we have our eyes firmly fixed on God’s approval or disapproval, if we are listening carefully for the quiet prompting of the Holy Ghost, we will be warned; we will be helped. If we are looking to man too much, whether by inward temperament or under the influence of current events, we will be corrected—the Spirit of God will continue to lead us into all truth. But if we become dull of hearing, this process will not work as it should.

But how can a people who have known great spiritual liberty and freedom lose all that? Will not the doctrine save them? Will they not say, “Something has happened to us. We have not the freedom that we had before. What has happened to our blessing?” Answer: Yes, the doctrine is one of the checks that has the potential to wake people up, but if the people have accepted a little looking-to-man and justified that, then any return to the full blessing means denying and forsaking the looking-to-man. In other words, any steps away from God must be retraced to return to God, and that retracing, as Sister Katherine Helm describes it in The Lure of Divine Love, is a via dolorosa (way of grief). The path back is hard on the flesh, whereas the path away seems easier and more expedient to the flesh.

People have the ability to take a Bible doctrine itself and claim it as an identifying characteristic of their group, thus wrongly appropriating the doctrine from its proper place in the church of Jesus.

The writer has before him a copy of Perfect Love, a book published in 1902 about entire sanctification by J. A. Wood, a member of the Methodist Church. There is much good expounding of the scriptures in the book, but it is so mixed and intermingled with quotations from various Methodist writers and speakers that one can scarcely digest the subject without building one’s faith on the writers and speakers, rather than just on the Word of God. The writer scarcely seems to conceive of the subject outside of the Methodist organization, yet the experience of entire sanctification has been made available by the blood of Jesus (shed to open the second veil, Hebrews 10:19-20) to uncounted millions before the time of Methodism. But the writer is so filled with the spirit of the group that its influence is woven throughout the entire book. Such is a false representation of the subject, for Methodism has no monopoly on the heart experience which Jesus administers as people meet the conditions. Methodism falsely claims the doctrine as its property, but Jesus is the true Author and Finisher.

The Imitators, the Copycats

“Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents.”* (Exodus 7:10-12)

When a people take things into their own hands and began to act and do as seems best to them, it is a common thing that they seek to imitate what went before. And sometimes this imitation is remarkable, at other times it is only a crude copy. By any measure of appearance, the efforts of Pharaoh’s magicians did something quite remarkable—quite astonishing. “For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents.”

When men invent ingenious things, a sensation is created, and many wonder at the cunningness, the insight, the persistence, and the incredible convergence of time and place that produced such things. But there is always this possibility: if a man produced it, another man can do something equally amazing, or even exceed the first. Nor is this confined to the things of men, for there are certain possibilities available to men to imitate the work of God, and nowhere is this more true than within the possibilities in religion.

Men mimic the work of God, but it does not turn out the same. Men mimic vegetation with artificial plants, and the resemblance may be so uncanny that it is hard to tell the difference from certain perspectives. Men reproduce figures of men, faces of men, with such detail and so skillfully that the artificial may even seem more realistic than the original, especially under certain influences, lighting, etc. And men can replicate a Christian experience with a nearly flawless moral life, right down to dedication and sacrifice… and yet, there is something missing.

But what does this all mean with respect to our topic—the government of God’s church and how His ministers are licensed and authorized?

In the next issue, we will discuss the Bible picture we have of the calling and ordination of New Testament ministers, and the imitation of that calling and ordination.

—to be continued