FUNCTION OF THE ASSEMBLY by Dr Higgins.

  1. Focus of the Assembly
  2. Foundation of the Assembly
  3. Figures of the Assembly
  4. Fragrance of the Assembly
  5. Fruitfulness of the Assembly
  6. Function of the Assembly
  7. Fellowship of the Assembly

Before us is the subject of Shepherds … Servants … Saints

1Ti 3:1 This [is] a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
1Ti 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
1Ti 3:3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
1Ti 3:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
1Ti 3:5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
1Ti 3:6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
1Ti 3:7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
1Ti 3:8 Likewise [must] the deacons [be] grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
1Ti 3:9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
1Ti 3:10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being [found] blameless.
1Ti 3:11 Even so [must their] wives [be] grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
1Ti 3:12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
1Ti 3:13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
1Ti 3:14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:
1Ti 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

As a young Christian reading this you may think this chapter has little relevance for you.
However the relevance of this Chapter is to communicate the tremendous responsibility borne by the leaders and it should get you to want to pray for them in seeking for God’s help and preservation of them.

We are considering here the authority and the functioning in the House of God.
We have already mentioned previously that one of the things that mark the house of God is – ORDER.
Order requires leadership.
And so Paul is giving Timothy instruction as to the character of leaders.
Verses 1-7 are for those who would lead or shepherd the assembly.
Deacon work is not just about counting money and arranging chairs.
Deacon work involves anyone who represents God publically for the assembly.
Deacon work is teaching the Word of God, Preaching the gospel, teaching Sunday school …
All this carries the idea of public service of God for His assembly.
So verses 1-8 describe deacon work.

Verses 14 and 15 broaden the topic: Paul speaks here on how one must behave or ought to behave in the house of God.
So consider verses 1-7 and consider the requirements of men who lead God’s assembly.
The first and the most important qualification is found in verse 1.
It is a man in whose heart God has put the care of His people in the assembly.
Unfortunately the Authorized Version has used the word ‘office.’
That word does not appear in the original.
It is not an office but a work that a man desires to do for God.
It is a hard work that he undertakes for God, and the Spirit of God says it is a good work to do.
It is going to be sacrifice; it is going to be criticism.
When all is going well the saint s will praise God for His blessings.
But when things get bad, it will all be the fault of the overseer.
It is not a popularity contest. It is a difficult work done for God and love for His people.

In verse 2 a bishop must be blameless.
Some young believers may sit back and say I am not going to recognize the overseer as he does not measure up to the standard as stated here.
This verse was not given to you to criticize the overseer.
This list was given to leaders as a standard that they should seek to keep.

Now there are times when there are men who want to care for the people of God and for one reason or another they may feel that they do not measure up in these areas.
So now we face the question – Does this disqualify them?
The word ‘MUST’ is used several times in this chapter.
It is used relative to the deacon and in verse 15 it is used relative to every believer.
So if you cannot lead because you are weak in one of these areas, then you cannot be a deacon, and then it also means that you cannot be in the assembly as you are weak in one of these areas as mentioned in the epistle.
I am NOT lowering God’s Standard.
What I am saying is that what we have in this epistle is for each believer and deacon to strive to be holy to THIS Standard.
We cannot each just sit back and say no one is perfect.
In which case then no one can be a leader and then you are left with a:
House with NO ORDER, a Flock with no Shepherd and a Company that has no leadership.
And this is NEVER God’s intention.

A bishop must be without reproach and all that follows is an explanation of what it means to be blameless.
There are many ways of dividing these qualifications.
There are traits of character.
There is the training you get in your home.
There is the test of time – he is not a novice.
There is the testimony that he bears before the world.

So taking just a few of these verses as there is not enough time …
A bishop must be the husband of one wife – literally a one woman man.
He must have a purity of affection for his wife.
Likewise he is to have a purity of affection for the Lord he serves.
He does not need to be married and if married he must have the purity of affection for his wife.
There is no teaching in Scripture that if his wife passes away he cannot remarry.
That would be going beyond the Word of God.

The bishop is given to hospitality. Hospitality marks the people of God.
The man who seeks to lead keeps his home open.
Hospitality never depends on the size of your home, but the size of your heart.
So opening your home and your heart to the people of God is what hospitality is all about.
Notice now that hospitality is linked with being apt to teach.
Much of the teaching done by leaders is not done formally like this but in their homes.
In their homes the Word of God is opened and it is discussed.
This ‘apt to teach’ does not mean he has the ability to stand and teach the Word of God publically, but it is speaking of a man who opens the Word of God with believers privately and individually.

Verse 4 reminds us of the need of order in his house:
1Ti 3:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

If he is unable to maintain order in his own house how can he maintain order in the house of God?
Also – it is NOT the thought that his children must be saved.
Titus 1:6 speaks of having faithful children – children faithful to their parents.
This is NOT in terms of being saved.
A person is never held responsible for saving their children.
However, by maintaining a house in order, parents make it possible for their children to see their need of Christ and to come to Christ.

Note verse 5
1Ti 3:5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
Older brethren know that this expression ‘take care’ is found in only one other place.
And the place where it is found, it has tremendous meaning of what it means to be a shepherd among the people of God.
It is found in Luke chapter 10. It is in the story of the Samaritan.
When the Samaritan found the wounded man he cared for him, then took him to an inn and left him with the innkeeper giving him instructions to “take care of him’.
And so taking care of assembly is same as taking care of the man who was left half dead and taken to an inn to be taken care of.
It means meeting all the needs of the people of God.

Notice now verse 6 and the need for the test of time:
1Ti 3:6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
The bishop is not a novice newly saved. He has been proved over time.

His testimony before the world is important:
1Ti 3:7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
No one in society should be able to raise or substantiate a claim of wrong doing against him.

Now we look at requirements of overseers.
Think now of recognizing this issue of overseers:
First of all it is always in the plural.
The only time it appears in the singular is when it is talking of the requirements of an overseer.
Whenever we see an assembly functioning, there is always a plurality of elders.
When Paul went to Jerusalem, he went with the elders.
Paul called for the elders at the church at Ephesus.
Peter wrote to the elders who are among you.
This is the wisdom of God in giving the plurality of overseers.
It is for the purpose of balancing each other.
Some men are very hesitant and slow.
Some men are all heart and all feeling.
Some men are all brain and thinking.
(Many women now will be thinking … men don’t think.)
However there is a balance made here as many men seek to lead the assembly.
No one person can meet the needs and relate to all the believers in the assembly.
Scripture knows nothing of one elder. Not even of a leading elder.
And so we have elders in the plural.

Now for young believers … there are 5 words used for describing the SAME person.
We read of elder, overseer or bishop, shepherds, your guides, rulers or leaders.
Let me show you that they are all one and the SAME person.
In Acts 20, Paul called for the elders at the church at Ephesus.
And then he said – feed or shepherd the church of God whom the Holy Spirit has made you overseer.
So elders were shepherds or overseers.
Titus speaks of appointing elders in every city.
And an overseer must be blameless.
And Peter in chapter 5 speaks of the elders among you to feed or shepherds the flock of God taking the oversight.
So why does the Spirit use different words to describe the SAME man?

  • When you look at elder – you are looking at his worth.
  • When you look at overseer – you are looking at his work.
  • When you look at shepherd – you are looking at his watchfulness.
  • When you look at guide – you are looking at his walk.
  • When you are looking at leaders – you are looking at their wisdom.
  • When you think of elders – you think of their maturity of life.
  • When you think of overseers – you think of their manner in which they labor.
  • When you think of shepherds – you think of their motive and love for their sheep.
  • When you think of guides – you think of their method in which they lead the people of God.
  • When you think of leaders – you think of their wisdom, the means by which you learn from them.

Put all these together and you begin to see the guiding and care of the flock of God.

What are the responsibilities of these men?
This is not to give rise to criticize and say they are not measuring up.
This is for you to pray for them that they have the wisdom and the ability to discharge God’s requirements.
In 1 Peter chapter 5, Peter commands the elders to feed the flock of God.
So this is the first and most important responsibility of the leaders.
When the Lord Jesus took His disciples fishing, He fed them.

Being a leader is not being a detective to look for what is wrong.
Neither is it being a police man to punish everyone.
Nor is it being a General – ordering everyone around like in an army.

The first responsibility of a leader is to feed the flock.
When sheep are fed they are very content.
Remember Psalms 23?
Sheep are brought to pastures of tender grass.
And the shepherd leads them besides quiet waters.
Sheep do like troubled waters.
And when we allow trouble in the assembly, sheep begin to starve.
So it is very important that leaders feed the people of God.
It means I teach or I bring others to teach the Word of God.
So providing food is the first responsibility.

Next:
Paul writes of being vigilant for wolves that would come.
He tells of men coming in from without and he speaks of men rising up from within.
So leaders must be vigilant to protect the assembly and encourage fruit from individual believers.
They should maintain close relationships and know the needs of believers to help them.
They need perception to see their needs …to praise and encourage them as they take steps.
God is easily pleased but hard to satisfy.

An everyday illustration to explain this statement of fact:
When you have a child of close to a year of age, you are waiting for him to take his first steps.
You have your camera and recorder all ready for that moment.
And you are thrilled at those first steps that your child takes.
But this is NOT want you want for your child for the rest of his life. You have higher goals for him.
And then you have the mother all upset while the child is climbing and running around.
God is pleased with at the first steps in our Christian life.
But He is not satisfied if those first steps are our final goal.
And so it goes too for those who encourage the people of God that they should be pleased with the first steps a new Christian takes and then to encourage them to take the next steps toward maturity.
So leaders provide food, encourage fruit, and guide the flock.

How do overseers guide the flock?
They guide by example.
I have to ask myself an important question.
If every believer was as spiritual as I am, how spiritual would the assembly be?
Leaders set The Standard.
Thank God there are believers who rise above us.
But I have no right to expect people to rise above the level we set.
Another important responsibility of the bishop is to recover those who have fallen.
Shepherds do not wait for sheep to come back; they go out and look for the lost sheep.
Sheep by nature do not return on their own.
One of the greatest condemnations God has for leaders is found in Ezekiel chapter 34.
They did not recover that which was driven away.
God expects shepherds to seek those who have gone astray and bring them back.

Recall Luke chapter 15. We read of the Good Shepherd here.
He went after the lost sheep and returned only when He found it.

In Matthew chapter 18 too, we find a shepherd searching for a lost sheep.
But it does not say he searched till he found the sheep.
Matthew 18 is different from Luke chapter 15.
This is very telling and it is solemn.
Luke 15 – is seeking for the sinner.
Matthew 18 – is seeking a straying brother.
It suggests that it is easier to see a sinner saved than save one who has fallen restored.

There are many occasions when the Jews criticized the Lord Jesus for doing things on the Sabbath.
And He would answer them in a similar way.
In Luke chapter 14 He spoke of a man who owned a donkey and it fell into a pit.
And then He spoke of pulling out the donkey from the pit.
In Matthew 12 He speaks of a sheep fallen into a pit.
And here the sheep is LIFTED out of the pit.
Lifting the sheep out of the pit required the shepherd getting very close to the sheep.
The shepherd felt the weight of lifting the sheep out of the pit.
So God expects us to be interested in those who have fallen.

There is one other responsibility placed on me:
I am not just to provide for food and look out for wolves … encourage fruit, guide the flock and recover the lost … I am also to look to the future.
A leader who does not plan for his absence is not a good leader.
A leader is to look into the future for the care of the people of God after his absence.

Psalms 40 reminds us of the Perfect Shepherd.
He gathers His lambs in His arms.
And He gently leads those with young.
And so I must seek to emulate the leadership of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Relationship among shepherds:
First question – Who should shepherd the shepherds?
There is no leader that is above the Word of God.
And so each shepherd is accountable to the other.
Shepherds are not only accountable to each other but are to be also mutually respectful to each other appreciating each other’s strengths that need to come together to help the assembly.

There needs to be unity among the shepherds.
It is not a matter of majority rule – that evaluates by vote to get to do what you want to do.
You may say you have scripture for that as Acts 15 teaches that.
“It pleased everyone and the Holy Spirit and they made a decision”
A divided leadership will cause a divided assembly – So unity and harmony is critical to the well being of the assembly.
So when differences arise there need to be a time of pray and a waiting upon God.

Let me close by turning to 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 – The Reality of Leadership:
Look at verses 12-15 and know how difficult this can be, so you can pray for your leaders:

1Th 5:12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
1Th 5:13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
1Th 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
1Th 5:15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

Verses 12-13 are your responsibility to pray for the overseers.
1Th 5:12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
1Th 5:13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

And verses 14-15 are their responsibility:
1Th 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
1Th 5:15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

Notice the different kinds of problems among the people of God.
There are saints that are distressed.
Some are weak and faint hearted who give up easily and get discouraged.
Earlier in chapter 2 Paul was like a nursing mother to them.
There are believers who need long term nursing care needing support for most of their Christian life.
It is the responsibility of leaders and it is very difficult to care for these and not to get discouraged
yourself.
Then there are the difficult ones – unruly and always causing problems.
These have to be admonished.
In chapter 2 of this epistle Paul was not just a nursing mother but a father too.
So there is the need for wisdom.
If you are a stern father to the one who needs nursing care, you have destroyed that believer.
And if on the other hand you are a comforting mother to someone who is fighting, you can see where
that will lead to.
So there is a need for great wisdom and discernment on the part of the leader for there are some saints that have fallen and some who are weak and faint hearted, others who need much patience and yet others who will at times do evil.
So it is little wonder that at the beginning of this chapter the Spirit of God says that it is a GOOD WORK!
But if God has not put it in your heart – DON’T TRY IT, as you will be tested as to if you are doing it for yourself or for God.
But Peter reminds us that for all the grief and difficulty you have to undergo, there IS compensation.
To the shepherd is promised a crown of glory.
So the Lord help both – those who have this responsibility and those who aspire to have the responsibility.

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