Building up believers and the New Testament church


Preparation and Development

Revelation is the basis of all ministry

All true ministry must be born out of a personal relationship and a revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ to the heart of the man He is speaking to. God does not call us to agree with or to minister something He is not speaking to our hearts personally. Revelation must become life to me. It's not enough to see and understand something; now that truth must become real to me before I can share it with someone else. I must know that it's real; I must know that it's life. I must be convinced that this is what God has given, and then God will give grace for this to be shared through words to others. You can't wait until you attain, or measure yourself by some other ministry. You measure yourself by the word of God that is real and working in your own life.

Perhaps the Lord has made something real to you. It's not burning in your soul yet, not yet possessing you, but there is something working. What you had yesterday was good for yesterday, but for life to come forth from you, you need something that is real to you today. It's not dead letter and doctrine. There must be a continual revealing. Not only do we have a vision that controls us, but there must be a continual renewing in the knowledge of what God wants, at the time He wants it.

For the word to be life to you, God's light must reach your heart. If we are really open, God will speak to us. He will reveal Himself to us if we seek Him with our whole heart. You cannot separate the living from the ministry. If we divide the life of the minister from the word that comes forth from him, something is wrong. Our ministry is only "ministry in life" in direct proportion to what we are walking in. If we do not continue to walk in what God is revealing, it isn't long until the revelation ceases to come and we drop back into a "head knowledge" rather than the spiritual anointing that brings light.

If you have a call to ministry, you have a basic revelation from God. As you continue to allow God to use you and work in you the fullness of Christ, that basic revelation will become larger and larger. Your sphere of seeing will expand, and you will see more fully in areas that you formerly saw only in a narrow way. In other words, at the beginning, sometimes we see only "in the letter," a very "narrow" revelation, but we start with what we see. As we continue on and God works in us, we don't lay down our convictions, but God causes them to grow. We start to see the underlying purpose of the convictions, and then we can move in more of the love of God. At every point, we must minister in the ability God has given us, but as we go on we will see better how everything fits in.

There are two things of utmost importance, both in our corporate gathering and in those who are called to ministry: our relationship with God, and experiencing what God is saying. We cannot order our lives unless we know the demands and standards of the Lord Jesus Christ upon us. You cannot order your life unless God orders it. This means that God must reveal His standards to you, and that you must measure up to them. We should value the message that is brought, and evaluate everything coming forth, asking ourselves, "What are the implications of the message God is speaking to us? What are the demands being put upon my life?"

We should also look at the one who is ministering, and ask, "What is he after? What is he seeing? What does he want me to see?" The minister must have a purpose, or else he is just "beating the air" (I Corinthians 9:26). We may do this in ignorance from time to time, but this is not what we desire to do. We are interested in affecting, not just hearing ourselves talk. When we do evaluate ministry, we are more open to allow God to work when He speaks to us.

After the basic revelation of God that comes to the minister, which is his basis of ministry, there must also be a continued anointing on his life and heart, and on that basis of revelation, if there is going to be more revelation, more life, and more enlightenment. If the word of God has not been enlightened to the minister, he cannot bring it to others. He may speak it a hundred different ways, but unless it is made alive by the Spirit to him, he cannot bring life to others. The word must be alive.

The Spirit gives the revelation, and we can't fool each other in the Spirit. When ministry comes, those that are open before the Lord and seeing in the revelation of God can sense whether it comes forth in life or not. The Holy Spirit senses it immediately. It is the same anointing and revelation in the Spirit of God that moves in the one bringing and the one receiving. There can be matters that hinder the one receiving or the one giving. We must recognize that these can be there, and work at them so there can be growth and a greater openness for the ministry and receiving of the word of God. Our lives will become enriched, and we will start to grow in unity and oneness, becoming more single-eyed. We cannot be single-eyed by natural fellowship or affinities. Our oneness is in seeing together, partaking of Christ together--and all of this comes down to this area of revelation.

Whether we are ministers or not, everything we bring to the church (even a testimony or a word of exhortation) must be attached not just to scripture, but to the very character of the word of God from Genesis to Revelation, and to the whole spirit of God's purpose. The word must always be on the basis of revelation, or we will cause division in the Spirit. The Spirit of God within the hearer says "no" and there is resistance. So it is most important that anything we say, even in conversation, is attached to the word of God. Think it out before you say it. Then our ministry, our words of exhortation, and our ministry outside the assembly will be profitable. We are looking for agreement in the Spirit.

Qualifications and character of the minister

A minister must meet certain qualifications in order to use the gift that God has given. I Timothy 3 plainly sets down the conditions for ministry: "This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 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" (I Timothy 3:1-13).

Every man needs the character of God worked in him. A minister does not need more than another believer. God puts great stress on character. But character alone, without the gift, does not give a man the ability to minister. Conversely, just because a man has a gift does not mean he can use it. He may have the gift, the charisma, but there is no place for God's anointing without the character. His character--what he is in Christ--must line up with God's qualifications. If there is something wrong with the expression of his life, he is disqualified for ministry. The grace (ability) of God does not depart from a man even if he is disqualified, but God cannot put His anointing upon the gift He has given. Just as He said regarding Israel, the gifts and calling of God are without repentance (irrevocable) (Romans 11:29). God doesn't take back his gift, but a minister can be disqualified for service.

Character must formed under the discipline of the Holy Spirit through acts of obedience. We don't just discipline ourselves. The Holy Spirit disciplines us, and we are being disciplined through faith. In Galatians 1, Paul speaks about his call: "[God] called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen..." "To reveal His Son in me," there must be a dealing with the vessel. There must be a revealing of Christ in the one that is ministering. Most of us have come to an understanding that words alone do not satisfy, nor do they bring life to us. There must be a reality in the one that is ministering the word. The word must be life in him, to be a flow of life to others.

We will spend much time in prayer. Our lives will need to be saturated in the presence of God. Our words will be affected by our times of prayer, but prayer alone will not do this work. God does not anoint a vessel that is not fit, one that does not meet His qualifications. He may at times use various men who have problems, but on a continued basis, I don't believe He will continue to anoint the ministry of a man whose message is not backed up by his character--what he lets God do to discipline his life. It doesn't matter how much time he spends in prayer, if he is lacking in these areas, the anointing cannot be on his life as God wants it to be.

I Timothy 3:8 gives what I believe are qualifications for ministers. After speaking of the overseers (elders), Paul says, "Ministers in the same way, dignified, not double-tongued, not to much wine given, not greedy of base gain, holding the sacred secret of the faith in a pure conscience...." (This quote is from the "Emphasized New Testament" by Rotherham.) The Greek word translated "minister" here is translated as "deacon" in other translations, and used in only two places in the New Testament (Philippians 1:1, I Timothy 3:8-12). Some have made "deaconship" a position like that of the seven who were chosen at the beginning to serve tables. But all ministry is serving, so wherever the Lord speaks of ministry, you must find out what type of ministry is being discussed, because the same word is used. I believe the word actually refers to a minister, one who ministers the word of God or ministers to a spiritual need. So let us think of these as qualifications for "ministers" rather than just "deacons."

The 10th verse continues, "But let these also be proved first, then let them be ministering, being unaccusable..." God is exacting, not only about those He has put in functions of oversight, but about those He has given grace to minister or serve. We must always realize that God has not set the ministers over us. Ministers are given to meet needs in the body--the needs that God, not man, singles out. Ministry is serving the word of God--a very responsible place. Each one who has that grace working in him should realize that his life will have to bear up under a more strict discipline. We desire pureness of ministry, the "word of life" that causes us to hear God when it is ministered. We must at least start here, realizing why we gather together and what the purpose of God is. We should not feel we are "narrow-minded" just because we have a purpose. Although the purpose is narrow, God has made provision to embrace all.

Paul goes on to say, "Wives in the same way, dignified, not given to intrigue, sober, faithful in all things. Let the ministers be husbands of one wife, over children presiding well, and over their own houses. For they who have ministered well a good degree for themselves are requiring, and great freedom of speech in the faith that is in Christ Jesus." We read both in Timothy and in Titus that if a man does not have his house in order, he cannot take care of the church of God. If a man doesn't have God's character working at home, how can he be expected to have it in the church? Let me stress the importance of allowing the family to be put into order. You cannot put your family into God's order until you have allowed your relationship with your wife to be brought to a spiritual basis. That means the wife submitting to her husband as unto the Lord, and the husband loving his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). We cannot go into detail here, but if you seek the Lord and pray about this, the Lord will give you understanding. He will unfold His plan and show you how this takes place. As you start to find fulfillment in your relationship with each other in the Lord, you will see an ability to order your family and to give your children the direction they need.

If we do not order our families, there is no place to see ministry brought into expression and recognized properly. We have seen in local gatherings around the world that men can have grace working in their lives and they can be seeing the purpose of God, yet many are disqualified because their house is out of order and they cannot be an example to the flock.

In II Timothy 2, Paul admonishes Timothy as a minister: "Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition..." (II Timothy 2:22-25a NAS)

You may not think we all need this--that Timothy was being admonished as a young man. But the spirit of the minister is the same, whether it is those God has called to oversee or those He calls to minister or serve. All brethren must flee "youthful lusts," or as another translation says, "youthful passions," which may give more insight. Youth has certain characteristics that are good, but others that are untried, immature--characteristics that have not been transformed spiritually. Paul exhorts Timothy to "flee." To flee is to turn and run. Then Paul tells us what to pursue. "Pursue" is a word that means more than just glancing at or recognizing a goal. To pursue means to put my will into God's purpose. With the volition of the Holy Spirit, I start to move with my will toward that goal. We could say that to flee means "to run from" and to pursue means "to run to."

Go back to I Timothy 3 and look at the qualifications of overseers, and of deacons or ministers . The first one is soberness. It is not common for young men to be sober. They may be serious at certain times, but it is unusual to find one that sees the purpose of soberness in his life. Another characteristic is self-restraint. This is not the normal expression of youth. Youth is aggressive in many ways, whether wrong or right. There is nothing inherently wrong with being aggressive; this just needs to be channeled. It is the same in each of our lives. Being older doesn't preclude us from having some of these youthful passions working in us, and we need to flee them if they are there. We don't look down upon youth, but at any age, it is important that our lives become orderly and self-restrained. This takes time and discipline. Gentleness is also mentioned in II Timothy 2. Gentleness is not usually the attribute of young people. They are usually full of "vim and vigor." Gentleness comes over a period of time. It is a work of the Spirit of God, a fruit of the Spirit. It comes as we flee impulsiveness, thoughtlessness, and all such things. Patience is another requirement, a characteristic not typical of youth.

In Philippians 2, Paul says of Timothy, "I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare..." (v. 20 NAS). Ministers must become completely disinterested in self. You cannot be selfish in any degree and be a faithful minister, one that is able to have the revelation of Jesus Christ and the body of Christ entrusted to him. "...For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father" (v. 21,22 NAS). Here is the area of submission to authority--recognizing the Lord Jesus Christ's authority, bowing to it, able to obey it. This is difficult in some societies. Some cultures seem to be more open and quick to receive these truths. There is a quicker discipling, and maybe a closer fellowship that develops more quickly because people are brought up with more discipline and honor. I believe this may have been one of the things that helped Timothy. Paul said he was the only one "of like spirit."

Last but not least, unless a brother is filled, controlled, and possessed by the Spirit, he is not qualified for ministry. Even if he meets the qualifications laid down for character, he is not qualified spiritually to meet the needs. He must be a man under the control of the Spirit, and he must see the revelation of Christ and the church. Many today talk about the church, but do not really see the church by revelation. A minister must see what the church is and how it works out, in order to minister or function properly among the gathering of God's people.

Preparation of the vessel

A ministry that is not being lived out in the life of the minister has no weight. He may speak the same words as someone else, but they carry little weight and do not impart life. The depth is not there because the minister has not been through the trying of God. He has not been proven by God in the areas he is ministering. But the one who is living the message, the one that has been dealt with by God, is the one who can minister life. He is building on the foundation with something that will last. I believe every minister has a responsibility to impart the life of God to others, through words and through the example of his life.

As we continue to walk with God, our experiences with God in different circumstances, trials, and testings will enrich the flow that comes from our lives. Whether we are ministers or not, we will be able to interpret the revelation, what God is saying to us, more fully. Just because a man is a minister does not mean he has a "corner" on the revelation. Any believer may know just as much by revelation as a minister. But God gives ability to ministers for the perfecting or maturing of the body of Christ. The revelation is ministered to the body of Christ by ministers so that we all might see.

Now, the vessel, as we've already said, must be prepared. The vessel continues to be prepared. I can't touch on every facet of preparation here, but let's try to touch a few areas.

Ministry requires brokenness. For a flow of God's life to come through any minister, there must be a breaking of the outward--the flesh and the soulish part of man. This means there must be no trust in the flesh, nothing which blocks the way for a free flow of God's word by the Spirit. This may not happen all at once, but this is what we strive for--a complete crucifixion of the soulish man and the fleshly man.

When the minister's life is broken open, we can taste of that free flow of life that comes through him. But if a minister is resting on his own feelings, his own opinions, thoughts, or reasoning, that is all you will get. So a minister must be worked on by God in these areas. A broken vessel is one that is disciplined, not allowing himself to come forth, so that the word might come forth. This is an area of discipline. Our emotions and our thoughts must be brought under control. We must know what we're doing. We must have a clear-cut understanding.

This is the only way to move in a ministry of the word, a ministry of life. Maybe these terms are not adequate, but they are the only ones I know. If God can give you another way to say the same thing, praise the Lord! But the foundational truth is that we must move in a ministry of the life of God and the word of God, not a ministry of our opinions, our reasoning, or our experiences. We must minister what we see as much as possible without distorting it through the soulish or fleshly part of man.

Ministers must have a renewed mind, a changing, a different seeing. In Acts 9:5-6, Paul said, "'Who art thou, Lord?' He said 'I am Jesus whom thou persecutist. It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.' And he trembling and astonished said, 'Lord, what wilt thou have me do?' And the Lord said unto him, 'Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.'" Paul had to be told. There must be a renewing, a "telling" from God, a brand-new ordering of our lives and our minds. Our minds must be brought to the place that they do not wander. To hold the things of God precious, to have the ability to minister what God speaks to our hearts, our minds must be renewed in God. We must think in God. If there is no revelation, no thinking in God, there can be no ministry.

Paul says to be ready in season and out of season (II Timothy 4:2). We should be ready, brethren, at all times, to minister. This embraces preparation, setting ourselves aside, and giving our hearts to think on what God has revealed to us. We cannot wait for the times when the congregation is moving on and conditions are perfect. Ministry is needed at all times, "in season" when things are perfect (or we think they are) or "out of season" when things aren't so good. Whether you "feel" you are ready or not, be ready in season or out of season.

Paul goes on to show what we should be ready to do: "to reprove, to rebuke, to exhort, with great patience and instruction." When a brother sees something and is trying to express it, but the expression is imperfect, we should be patient. The more we are exercised by the Spirit, the greater ability we will have to express what God is speaking to us. If God is showing you something within the overall revelation, you must have great patience, and you must be willing to continue to instruct. The revelation must possess you to such a degree that you can labor in love for all the other members of the body of Christ to start to partake of it--even if they resist at the beginning. If it is true, if it is Christ, you will continue to labor! We must have a love for the brotherhood.

When the Spirit directs, ministry must be ready. He cannot direct those that are not ready to minister. It's not a question of not having something to give, because if you have a gift, you have something. The question is whether it has been cultivated, thought upon, whether your thoughts are in order before God so that when you open your mouth, you can bring to the people what God has spoken to your heart. That's being ready. If God has spoken to your heart but you're not able to put it into words, you may still not be prepared and ready when the Spirit of God directs. It may be because you haven't experienced it, or some other reason, but you cannot just "throw something out," or the words will confuse rather than ministering or building.

When God speaks something to me, I have found that I must spend time before Him to know how to communicate it. We don't need to say it like someone else does, or strive for eloquence. We're not trying to be like each other; we're simply trying to bring the message God has given us individually, in the best words we are capable of. If we go with the ability that God gives, it will work what God wants. We should always try to improve our presentation, because I don't think God leaves a place for sloppiness. But this is spiritual improvement, not natural improvement.

At the beginning, the revelation may be small, yet it might take quite a time of labor to put what we see into words, because we are limited in our expression. After God has given us some understanding, it may take a month or more to be able to put what He is showing us into a few words or a sentence. If I'm lacking in my ability to express what God has put in my heart, I should be constantly asking God to help me in this area. I shouldn't just be satisfied with where I am; I should want more. I need to be able to "break open the word" so people can see. It is the Spirit that is moving, but still He is using words. We should want to have a clear expression, the right words, words the Holy Spirit can use to break into people's hearts to feed their souls.

The minister has become a mouthpiece for God, a channel for the word of God to be expressed in life. The word can be distorted, or colored, if the vessel is not prepared. How important the vessel is, for the pure revealing of the simplicity of a word of God which gives us the ability to move! As a minister or as a brother, God is dealing with you, working on you, preparing you to be a fit vessel for the flowing out of His life. Otherwise, even if God is speaking to you, your life, your personality, your physical person, your home life, and many other things may affect or hinder your ministry.

The anointing teaches us

In John 14:26, Jesus said, "But the helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, he will teach you all things..." John says this again in I John 2:27: "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."

Although we are looking for men to be teachers, we are not looking for the teaching of man. I'm not interested in sitting under any teacher just to get intellectual knowledge. I'm interested in teachers who have a revelation from God, because as they minister what they see, if my heart is right, I will begin to see what they are seeing. I don't just look to teachers; I look to the Teacher, the Holy Spirit, to make His word alive to my heart. I thank God for every one He has called, with whatever degree of revelation is moving in his heart, because each one enhances what God can do for us. The richer the ministry, the more we will see what God is doing! So let us pray that God will enrich the ministry.

"...and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you." Jesus was speaking to His disciples there, but the same thing is true now. The Holy Spirit will bring all things to our remembrance. If God speaks to you today, and it's real, it may be only a sentence or only a word, but tomorrow you will look at that same word and ask God again what He is saying. The Holy Spirit must anoint that word, that phrase, that statement afresh, and make it more real. The next day, you want a fresh anointing on it again. God will continue to anoint--to bring all things to your remembrance. The richer we are in Christ, in the revelation working, and in the remembrance from the Holy Spirit that is able to use these vessels--our minds and all our faculties--the richer the ministry of the word will be. The Holy Spirit teaches us all things by His anointing, but we can't throw out the vessels God has called!

If you cannot recognize the anointing of the Spirit flowing through a ministry, you will not receive it. It is only as you recognize that authority, only as the Holy Spirit anoints your heart, that the word has any meaning to you. We must be able to discern what the Spirit of God is demanding through ministry. We are living the life of Christ. It is no longer I, but Christ that lives within me (Galatians 2:20). So we partake as the anointing teaches us through the word. It is very easy to "hear what we want to hear," but rather than that, we should hear what God is saying! We don't want to hear what the minister is saying; we listen to hear what God is saying. We want to hear what the demand of God is for us. He is speaking to many hearts and building in different areas, line upon line. Remember that God can't build in your life until you have been obedient to the last thing you heard. When you obey, God will build upon that. But He will only build if you are ready for Him to build.

Every time we get up to speak, the word we give must be living. It doesn't matter whether you or others have spoken the same message many times before. When you speak it again, the anointing of the Spirit must be making it alive. We should know when we come to the end of that, and not feel we have to go further or minister for a certain length of time. If we learn how to function together, one may minister in the anointing of the Spirit for ten minutes and another can add to it, also in the anointing. If the ministers have had fellowship, each knows the others' lives, and they have confidence that the word of God is working in them. This helps to cut away the excess that is not really life, to allow what is life to blossom forth and grow in us. Then whenever we do go further, it will be in life, and when we do come to the end of what we have to give, we can stop.

There are many things that can affect the anointing: the thought God has given you, how you present it, the words you use, whether you can convey the thought to those who listen, whether you've spent time before God, whether it is life to you, and whether it has affected your life. All of these things have a bearing upon the anointing that that word has, and whether it is really life--whether it pricks the hearts of those who are hearing it, whether it gives direction. God knows what is needed; He will take care of meeting the needs. He breaks up the word and feeds each one of us. But He feeds us through ministry, and the ministry must bear up under its responsibility.

We cannot do what the Spirit of God can do in another believer. In other words, if the believer's heart is not right and the anointing is not there, even if the anointing is on our words, how can we expect it to bring forth life? It must be received as well as given. But we should be responsible for putting it out, for delivering the word and not putting any hindrances before it, letting the Spirit teach us in these areas. We cannot just stand up and say anything, thinking that "the Lord can use what He wants to use." I don't see in the scriptures that God has ordained such a thing. He says through Peter, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God" (I Peter 4:11) When Stephen spoke, the words so pricked the hearts of his hearers that they gnashed their teeth and ran upon him. The word was powerful. Jesus' words were powerful. He spoke the word and drove out demons. So the anointed word we speak is very important.

Sometimes in our thinking we have divided ourselves from the working of the Spirit. We say, "God, you take care of everything, and we will do our part." I don't believe we can do that. The Holy Ghost indwells us and works in union with us, in the same way Jesus worked with His Father. Jesus and the Father were one. We also are to move as one. It's the power of the Holy Spirit in the church that will convict the world of sin, not us sending the Holy Spirit to do what God wants us to do. We may have some misunderstandings due to past teachings or practices, so let us seek God for better understanding to move in. I do not believe God will do something He has chosen us to do.

A minister may speak with fervor, with great emotional emphasis (and God doesn't remove our emotions), but we are dependent on the anointing of the Spirit, not on how our emotions reach out to affect people. People may be affected by emotion, but only the anointing will do what God wants to do: change lives. We can usually test whether we are moving to affect emotions or whether the anointing is moving to change lives. Anointing comes when God has made the word alive to the minister, regardless of his emotional fervor or style of speaking. The anointing makes every message new. When you deliver the message, you must know that it will bring forth life. You must deliver it in faith and leave the Lord the place to change and move in the lives of those that hear it.

Our emotions must always be under the control of the Spirit. God doesn't take our emotions away, but we should be sober. I don't believe we should joke when dealing with men's eternal souls and eternal truths. There is a time for humor, but when you present the truth, it is serious, and we should be serious about it. We need that balance of seeing the seriousness of God's dealing and moving with soberness, yet with the joy of the Lord. I think we will grow in this, knowing the proper balance in Christ. When God controls our emotions, they can be properly used to communicate something. Emotions are not wrong; they just need to be directed by the Holy Ghost.

We can conclude by emphasizing that God has chosen one way for both ministers and hearers, and that is the anointing. We receive nothing apart from the anointing. If a brother has an ability to feed, it's the anointing on his word and the anointing on the receiving of that word which allow everybody to see. The listeners do not see because the brother sees; they see because the anointing teaches them. Life flows from the Head. If the living word is imparted, it's not necessarily because the brother sees more (though he probably will) but because of the anointing that teaches.

This takes ministry out of the realm of who the man is, or one being above another. It is the anointing that teaches; it is God who works all things to His end purpose by the Holy Spirit. He has given some brothers an ability to take the word and feed it to others (these are teachers). Another brother is given the ability to hold the revelation of the mind of God before the people (this is a prophet). Another brother is called and given the ability to go forth and form the body of Christ (this is an apostle). Other brothers have different burdens and gifts. But in every case it is the Holy Spirit working in that brother and in the hearers.

As Isaiah 61:1 says, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me..." This is the anointing that is on the minister and abiding in the heart of every believer. I believe this is the secret of the outworking of the body of Christ. The body of Christ is not dependent on a man who sees everything God wants him to see and is able to convey it to the people. No, each one partakes from the hand of the Lord. Your ministry, in reality, is unto the Lord first, and then, by the Spirit, to the people's hearts. Without that anointing of life in the hearer, there can be no teaching. We cannot work this, but we can submit ourselves before God, keep ourselves in prayer before Him, and continue to abide in the anointing by faith.

If God is opening our eyes, we can see what the body of Christ is and how it functions. This leaves us as ministers in the proper place, and allows each believer to function in the body. Christ is the Head and each member--minister or brother or sister--must be connected to the Head and recognizing the flow of life, whether it comes through a minister or someone else. This is the whole outworking of God's plan. It doesn't lift any one above another, no matter who they are or what their ability is. A brother may have great ability, but that does not put him above anyone else--it puts him below, serving. To see the working of the body correctly, we must understand this.

Study to show thyself approved

Brethren, without laying aside the importance of the anointing that teaches us, God does not "knock our brains out" and burn a revelation in us apart from our minds. God has given us minds, and we must take on the mind of Christ. Also, the ministry of God's word requires an exacting wordage. You can't have any more grace or ability than God has given you, but I believe that as Paul tells Timothy, you can "study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness" (II Timothy 2:15,16).

We might think we never have any "profane and vain babbling" in the church. But if we are not ministering the word of God, we're babbling. If we're only getting up and chatting, or giving our opinions, or moving out of a feeling or emotional upset, it may be just "vain babbling." Even ministering out of our experience and God's personal dealing with us is not ministering life. You cannot minister an experience, because it may be wrong. We should first allow God to deal with us, break us, and work the message in us before it can flow out through us. After God has worked in you as a minister or a brother, you may share your experiences, but they must still be grounded in the word. So we must study to show ourselves approved unto God.

A minister must make his life, heart, and mind accessible unto God, meditate, and study. I think the spirit of the New Testament is that we are also subject to one another. In our ministry we must be approved unto God, but if we cannot have a witness with other spiritual brethren in the midst, we had better be quiet until we can, and we had better seek that witness. Or if we have had a beginning revelation of Jesus and what He is doing, and now we have gone wrong, we should desire to see where we've gone wrong.

There are ministers who saw clearly at one time and today they do not see. God moved upon them, they had a ministry at one time, but the vision started to fade. Why does that happen? Why did the vision grow dim? There are many things that can cause the vision to fade, and these can be right within us. We may feel God is showing us something--yet it doesn't fit into the revelation. It may sound good, but it's not building on the one foundation. Paul says in Corinthians that there is only one foundation, and to beware how we build on that foundation. Revelation should unify. If the word is coming forth in life, it should unify.

There are many facets of ministry, and we will not address each one here, but we should consider the particular area of doctrines. Doctrine is teaching. We can have doctrines without the revealing of God's Holy Spirit, and they will have no life. However, that possibility does not relieve us of the responsibility to have sound doctrine. Doctrines are important. There are certain topics in the Bible in which we must become qualified. We must study to show ourselves approved unto God, and study is not something to take lightly. I believe we need to follow some kind of systematic study of the scriptures, not "in the letter," but bringing the doctrines of Christ into the Spirit and studying them to show ourselves approved unto God. God doesn't want his ministers to be ignorant. If anybody must have understanding, it is the ministers that God has called, because they are to teach others.

We cannot do God's will without having a revelation from God. If we are moving in that revelation, we will have sound doctrine. As we know God, as we do His will, experience Him, and walk in His purpose, we will know His doctrines (John 7:17). We need to know the teachings and principles of the Lord, the principles of the Spirit moving in the body of Christ. This is vast, and I don't think any one man can know all areas. That's why God has given ministers to the body of Christ, so that each one can labor in the ability God has given him, and each must continue to study to show himself approved unto God. As we study sound doctrine, we shouldn't become stagnant, or stop at any one place. God continues to give us understanding. There is no subject we have exhausted yet. Sometimes we think we have, when we haven't even started to get into the riches of the many areas in which God would speak to us. Everything has meaning now, in our relationship with God and the expression of Christ in us.

I Timothy 6:3-5 (NAS) says, "If anyone advocate a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain." We see here that doctrine is important. Paul is warning Timothy about "different doctrines," and advocating that we know the doctrines of Christ.

I Timothy 4:14-16 also speaks about doctrines: "Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you which was bestowed upon you through prophetic utterance with laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things..." We should "take pains"--take time--with the study of God's words and ways in the power of the Spirit, earnestly seeking and searching for God to speak to our hearts and give more light. "...Be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself..." Pay close attention, look at your life--don't let it go on a long time without allowing the Spirit of God to scrutinize it. This is not introspection. I don't believe God wants us to draw within ourselves or condemn ourselves and not have the freedom God wants us to have. But an examination by the Spirit of God will try our lives. We will keep "short accounts" before God and before our brethren, so that our lives may be ordered in God, giving forth a testimony of what we speak about or minister.

"Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you" (I Timothy 4:16 NAS). This is how important doctrine is. Doctrine is an outworking and a realization of the revelation that has come into our lives, to cause us to be stable, to walk in Christ and to experience the work of Christ. I don't believe we should get doctrine first, though we may get it in the "dead letter" and then have to come relearn it as the Spirit of God builds it in our hearts. But the way of God, I believe, is when God brings light and reveals all that He is, in different areas of our lives, giving us the ability to take hold of what He is saying and put it into words we can share with others. As we walk out what God is saying, we are able to formulate God's demands in our mind and words, and to share them in life.

Doctrine without life has no meaning. It must have life. But let us not lay doctrine aside and say we have no need for doctrine if we have life. Instruction in godliness is doctrine. Instructing in many areas of the scripture is profitable to our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. When we see that we are lacking and that we should be nourished by "every word that proceeds from the mouth of God," our respect and honor for what God is doing through ministry will increase. We will humble ourselves, realizing we are inadequate in ourselves and that we must be dependent on the gifts of ministry God has put in the midst, and recognize the Holy Spirit moving through them. But we are not dependent upon persons; we are dependent upon Christ, and we must always keep this in mind.

Subjects for study and methods of study

I believe that as ministers and as brothers partaking from ministry, there must be some type of system for your study of doctrine. If you don't like someone else's system, let God help you work one out, but let me suggest some subjects I feel are most important for a minister to study and have spiritual knowledge in. When you start to minister, you will touch these areas almost immediately.

If we deal with doctrine wrongly, we can defile and hinder the body--and this is possible for any of us to do. In all of these subjects, we need a working knowledge in God, not just theory. We can't minister effectively without having spiritual understanding and without having these areas working out in our own lives. It should not be just what you've heard or read, but what the word of God actually says. We will continue to build on this understanding as we receive not only from God, but from other ministers.



Baptisms (Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Water Baptism)

God the Father

Son of God

Holy Spirit




The Christian Life (Practical Christian Living)

The Future (Prophecy)





We need some working knowledge of all of these areas, brethren. If we don't, it will reflect through any ministry that we bring, at some time or another. You should begin to put together a record of what God is revealing to you (not just facts), and keep them in a file, a notebook, or whatever works for you. You may come to services with a notepad, some way to write down what God has spoken to you. After you write it down, think upon it. Let God have His full expression in your life. Remember, we are not studying "dead letter," but looking for God to reveal to us. We need understanding from Him, or our ministry will not be tied to the word of God. Also, remember that you can't get everything at one time! We should continue to study to show ourselves approved to God.

You can compile this information in different ways. Some may have a tremendous memory and be able to store it all in their minds. I don't. Usually when I'm studying I keep a notepad, and when God reveals something, when the light starts to come, I immediately write down the thought that God is bringing to my heart, to my mind, so that I can put it into words. Some may say that is unnecessary, but if you've ever studied and had a thought, then gone on and found that the thought is forgotten--it may come again, but it may not--you will learn that if you put it down, God can build on it. If you don't write it down or cannot retain it in your mind, God cannot build upon it. Personally I have found that when I write something down, God brings it afresh to my memory. I can come back year after year, and the Holy Spirit makes it more real. The truth continues to grow and expand as God builds it. But you may have another method that works better for you.

We must open the scriptures, so God can speak to us. Study the books of the Bible, book by book. You will see who God is dealing with and how He is dealing. All of these things will have rich meaning in your life as you grow in God. You cannot study any book of the Bible without benefiting from it, because God will speak to you even in the types and shadows of the Old Testament. He will speak to you of the reality in Christ, practical living, and His purposes in the New Testament, and He will speak to you of the future. So we need to study the books of the Bible, and it needs to be done with some kind of system, not just "here and there." You may read that way in a devotional time, but if you are reading to study, you should be methodical. You should know the history and background of the scriptures.

How long did Paul have to learn the ministry? He had a foundation in the Old Testament. All he needed was the Holy Spirit to quicken those things and make them alive to him. We may be lacking knowledge which someone grounded in the Old Testament may have. We may not have enough knowledge, even of the letter of the word, for the Holy Spirit to make it alive. So we may need to study more diligently, to make ourselves approved to God, as workmen that can be used. Put down the thoughts that God brings you in some system from which you can draw for years to come. If you can get a Bible with large margins and write in the margins, that will work. It doesn't matter where you write, but you need to get the thoughts down somewhere. These will pay off, in the ministry of those who labor day after day in the word. At least, this has been my experience: what has blessed, encouraged, and helped me to retain things God has spoken to me. It has also helped me to reevaluate over a long period of time how truths fit into the overall revelation.

We need to understand men like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. We need to look into the parables and understand what they are saying. Subjects such as healing or miracles can be studied, to see how the Lord worked. Word studies can be very profitable. As you look at a word and see its fuller meaning, the Holy Spirit can open it up. Just as an example, we are looking at elementary areas of the word "ministry" here, because we need to know more about what it is, how it comes, and what its effects are. You can also go into the study of the gospels, and the harmony of the gospels--seeing when different events happened and how they are recorded in each gospel. This is a good study--to familiarize ourselves with the gospels, making ourselves available to God so He can speak to us.

Just a word about prophecy: Maybe God hasn't called you to a ministry focused on prophecy, but we all need some comprehension of what God reveals about the future, because there should be a hope in the heart of every believer, and that hope is attached to the future. There are different kinds of studies we can go into, but we definitely need a basic understanding about prophecy so that when we minister, we don't place events in the wrong time and hurt the ministry we're trying to give. We need an understanding of the dispensational truths of God, to minister not only by the Spirit, but also in the timing of God.