The Five-Fold Ministry Explained

Did the so-called fivefold ministry offices cease after the New Testament era, or do they continue function in the body of Yeshua to this day? In our day, most people agree that the ministries of the evangelist, teacher and pastor are still in operation today, but many say that the offices of apostles and prophet have ceased to operate. Yet in verse 13, we read that these offices would operate “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah…,” which hasn’t happened yet. Therefore, it would stand to reason, that all these ministry offices are still needed today.

He. It must be kept in mind that Yeshua is the epitome of and over all (authoritatively) ministry offices that follow in this verse. When we ascended to heaven, he spread his own abilities out, as it were, among those he called to be leaders over his spiritual flock below (see Eph 4:8). Collectively, these ministry offices should be doing the work that Yeshua himself would be doing were he here on this earth presently.

Apostles. In addition to the twelve original apostles (including Matthias who replaced Judas Iscariot, Acts 1:26), here is a list of the other apostles, which might be called Yeshua’s ascension-gift apostles (Eph 4:8):

  • James, the half brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church (Gal 1:19)
  • Barnabas (Acts 14:14)
  • Paul (e.g. Acts 14:14)
  • Apollos (1 Cor 4:6–9)
  • Timothy and Silvanus (1 Thess 1:1 and 2:6)
  • Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25)
  • Titus, and other un-named apostles—at least two (2 Cor 8:23)
  • Andronicus and Junia (Rom 16:7)
  • Yeshua is the Apostle and High Priest of our confession (Heb 3:1)
  • Including Judas Iscariot, this makes a total of at least 26 apostles who are mentioned in the Testimony of Yeshua. 

With this list in mind, it now becomes logical to divide the apostles into at least three categories or level. Yeshua is the Chief Apostle. The original 12 that Yeshua appointed (minus Judas Iscariot) and possibly Paul would be the next tier. They are the foundational apostles. Yeshua mentions that the 12 apostles will rule over the 12 tribes of Israel and that the 12 foundations of the New Jerusalem are named after the 12 apostles (Rev 21:14). It seems that Yeshua commissioned these foundational apostles in direct, face-to-face encounters. After this come the lowest tier or ascension-gift apostles (Eph 4:8), which are all the other apostles.

Apostle Defined

Apostolos means “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders.” According to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testamentapostolos originally was a military or naval term relating to an expeditionary force that was sent out or dispatched. It came to be applied to a band of soldiers, or colonists and their settlement as well as to the commander of the expedition or an admiral. A common feature of all the definitions of the word was its passive character. In none of the definitions is there any suggestion of initiative on the part of the apostle. The word denotes the quality of being sent. In the New Testament, apostolos always denotes a man who is sent with full authority and is synonymous with the Hebrew word shaliach as is evidenced in John 13:16. Here is a legal term relating to one who is lawfully charged to represent the person and cause of another. This meaning is confirmed by the juxtaposition in this verse of the Greek wordsdoulos/kurios and apostolos/pemptsas. Here the servant (doulos) stands under full jurisdiction of his master (kurios) and derives from him all that he is. Apostolos also denotes the “commissioned representative of a congregation” (Acts 13:2ff). Finally, the term signifies the “bearers or proclaimers of the NT message.” The latter meaning applied to not only the original twelve apostles that Yeshua commissioned and sent out, but to the first Christian missionaries or their most prominent representatives (Acts 14:414). According to Paul, the apostles (1 Cor 12:28f) aren’t officials of the congregation, nor the chief of such officials, but are officers of Yeshua by whom the church is built (ibid. vol 1, p. 407ff). 

Attributes of an Apostolic Ministry 

  • Elohim sets or appoints (puts in place, establishes) apostles (as he also does prophets, teachers, etc., 1 Cor 12:28).
  • An apostle is called by God, not men (Gal 1:1).
  • They minister in the power of God, not the wisdom of men (Mark 16:20 cp. 1 Cor 2:1–5).
  • Elohim appoints apostles by the revelation of the Holy Spirit and as confirmed by other established elders ( Acts 9:15Acts 13:2-4Acts 22:21).
  • An apostle is given a specific mission to a specific group of people (Gal 2:8–9Acts 13:2–4).
  • They are spiritual pillars (Gal 2:9).
  • They form part of the spiritual foundation of the church (along with prophets, Eph 2:20).
  • They lay spiritual foundations for others to build on (1 Cor 3:10).
  • They facilitate unity (along with the other five-fold ministries) within the body of Yeshua (Eph 4:11–13).
  • They help the body of Yeshua to mature, to grow up, and to be built up (Eph 4:11–13).
  • Apostles bring revelation to the church (Eph 3:5Gal 1:11–12).
  • Apostles establish, set, and correct doctrine (Acts 2:4215:19–30).
  • They raise up new ministries and ordain elders (Rom 15:20Acts 14:23).
  • They impart spiritual gifts (Rom 1:11).
  • They defend the gospel­—are defenders of the faith (Phil 1:17).
  • The apostles in the NT were persecuted and rejected or even killed for their service to the body of Yeshua (e.g. 1 Cor 4:11–13Luke 11:49Acts 5:1840). This is because they’re on the forefront of YHVH’s spiritual battle to advance his kingdom into the enemy’s territory.
  • One has to grow into becoming a fully function and a spiritually powerful apostle. Yeshua’s 12 apostles asked him to increase their faith (Luke 17:5Mark 16:15 cp. John 21:3 and Acts 2:14).
  • An apostle may initially not be baptized in the Spirit, but once having received this spiritual empowerment will be released into the full authority of the office, as was the case with the original 12 apostles.
  • Apostles take their marching orders directly from Yeshua (Acts 1:2).
  • Apostles have authority to pronounce judgment on sinners within the body of Yeshua (Acts 5:3–101 Cor 5:1–5).
  • Apostles work many signs and wonders (Acts 5:12).
  • Apostles lay down the doctrinal foundation within the body of Yeshua (Acts 2:422 Pet 3:2).
  • Apostles are often called to testify before secular and religious leaders (Acts 5:29).
  • Often apostles have to stay in the thick of the spiritual battle while the rest of the saints escape from harm’s way (Acts 8:1).
  • After the gospel is preached in an area, apostles are sent in to establish spiritual order and to plant congregations (Acts 8:14).
  • Apostles go into new areas to preach the gospel (Acts 13:1–14:7).
  • Apostles along with elders are called to help resolve conflicts within the body of Yeshua (Acts 15:26).

There are false apostles (2 Cor 11:13Rev 2:2).

He gave some to be …prophets. The Greek word prophetes translated as prophetsome 140 times in the NT and means “one who, moved by the Spirit of God and hence his organ or spokesman, solemnly declares to men what he has received by inspiration, especially concerning future events, and in particular such as relate to the cause and kingdom of God and to human salvation; of men filled with the Spirit of God, who by God’s authority and command in words of weight pleads the cause of God and urges salvation of men; in the religious assemblies of the Christians, they were moved by the Holy Spirit to speak, having power to instruct, comfort, encourage, rebuke, convict, and stimulate, their hearers.

According to the TDNTprophetes as it relates to the primitive church was inspired speech of charismatic preachers through whom Elohim’s plan of salvation for the world and his will for the life of individual believers was made known. The prophet knows something of divine mysteries (1 Cor 13:2), about Elohim’s saving will for the Gentiles (Eph 3:5f), and one of his chief concerns is to declare imminent eschatological events (Rev 22:6f). He also knows other aspects of the future (Acts 11:2821:10f). The prophet speaks on contemporary issues as well relating to the ministry of the gospel (Acts 13:1ff1 Tim 1:184:14), and edifies, comforts and exhorts the members of the body of Yeshua (1 Cor 14:3Acts 15:32). Through his preaching, he brings to light the secret wickedness of men (1 Cor 14:25). Since he speaks with a sense of God-given authority, he gives authoritative instructions (ibid., vol. 6, p. 848).

He gave some to be …evangelists. An evangelist (Gr. yoo-ang-ghel-is-tace) by definition is a bringer of good tidings or news, or one who heralds of salvation through the Messiah and who were not apostles. It derives from the word euanggelidzo meaning “to preach the gospel, bring or declare good tidings or news. This word occurs only three times in the NT (Acts 21:8 of Philip; Eph 4:11 as listed among the other “fivefold” ministry offices; and in 2 Tim 4:5 of Timothy). The TDNT says that this term denotes a function more than an office. In the NT, it appears that all apostles were evangelists, but not all evangelists were apostles, and that former was subordinate to the latter. They are more than mere missionaries, since they preach in and lead congregations as well (2 Tim 4:25; ibid., vol. 2., p. 736f).

Continue reading
 

Flee merchandisers of the Word of Elohim!

WARNING! It is time for the saints of the Most High Elohim to boycott the corporate entity called The Church Inc. Just walk away from it! This is part of the harlot system that YHVH Elohim is calling his people out of that has tickled ears and made people spiritually drunk for far too long. Wake up saints and come out of her!


2 Corinthians 2:17, Peddling the word of Elohim. Are you as fed up with peddlers of the Word of Elohim as I am? It’s everywhere you go—people standing along the highways of biblical religion with their hands out panhandling. Even in Paul’s day as in our, the ministry of the gospel has “many” gospel peddlers. 

Show me just about any big name in Christianity, Messianic, the Hebrew Roots Movement and, in most cases, I’ll show you someone who has built their ministry on shameless self promotion, hype, glitz, corporate marketing techniques and their ability to cleverly woo people to their book seller’s table or website that is chalk full of wares that promise to fill your head with the latest prophetic insights, esoteric biblical head knowledge, pop-psychological, self-help, humanistic, new-age, ear-tickling pap. It’s all yours, if you’ll only plunk down some of your hard-earned cash.

Well, I’m not the only one who’s fed up with these modern-day merchandizers of the gospel. The Apostle Paul was too. Evidently it was rampant in his day as well as we have seen in the scripture verse quoted above: “For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of Elohim…” The word peddling there means “to be a retailer, to make money by selling anything, to get sordid gain by dealing in anything, to do a thing for base gain, to trade in the word of God, to try to get base gain by teaching divine truth, to corrupt, to adulterate, peddlers were in the habit of adulterating their commodities for the sake of gain.”

These guys don’t need to bother knocking on the door of the congregation I pastor, nor at the events our ministry sponsors. The welcome mat isn’t out for them!

Haven’t these spiritual beggars read the word of Elohim? Don’t those who support them know that this was not the way of Yeshua and the apostles? How many examples in the Bible are there of the true servants of Elohim peddling the Word of Elohim, and then living off the proceeds? None! Didn’t Yeshua tell his disciples when he sent them out to preach the gospel, “Freely you’ve received, freely give?” (Matt 10:8). What about this don’t we understand? Remember how Yeshua turned the money-changers tables over in the temple, and how he lambasted the greed of the Jewish religious leaders of his day who “devoured widows houses” (see Matt 21:12; 23:14)? Sadly, little has changed in religious circles since then.

Now I’m not opposed to people freely and without coercion giving to ministries who feed them by preaching and teaching the Word of Elohim. This is totally copacetic to the biblical norm. But selling, peddling and merchandizing is another thing. Of course, none of the offending parties are doing this are they? Just ask them, as they adroitly polish their 14 karat gold-plated hallows. The problem is that the gold plating is wearing thin, and the pot-metal is showing through. The discerning person see this and avoids such people.

The truth of Elohim cuts like a sword to reveal these characters for who and what they are—soulish, greedy, carnal and lazy bums who desire to live of the fat of YHVH’s sheep instead of submitting to the Spirit, truth and Word of YHVH Elohim (Heb 4:12). Go read, if you dare, what the prophet Ezekiel had to say about these guys in Ezekiel 34. YHVH’s judgments are coming against them (verse 20)! This is an end-times prophecy (see verses 23–25).

Other scriptures deal with this issue as well. Speaking of the qualifications of a spiritual overseer, Paul writes,

Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre [covetous]; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous… (1 Tim 3:3)

Speaking of the qualifications of a spiritual overseer, Paul writes, 

Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre [money]… (1 Tim 3:8)

Paul continues,

For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre [money]… (Tit 1:7)

Speaking of false teachers, Paul writes,

Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake [dishonest gain].”(Tit 1:11)

Peter instructs,

Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind… (1 Pet 5:2)

Interestingly, the problem of spiritual pan-handling peddlers and money-grubbers persisted in the early church even after the death of Paul. The Didache, which is one of the earliest, non-canonical documents that exists from the apostolic age from the late first-century A.D., contains some warning, which are as cogent in our day as then. It lays down some guidelines pertaining to the traveling Bible teachers of that day, which we would do well to follow.

Let every apostle [and prophet] that comes to you be received as the Lord. And he shall remain one day, and if there be need the second also; but if he remains three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle departs let him take naught, save provision of bread till he be lodged. But if he ask for money, he is a false prophet.

 

On the church’s hypocritical religionists, anti-Torah leaders, program promoters & prophetic profiteers

Numbers 23

Numbers 23:4, Seven altars. Rashi, the Jewish Torah scholar, says these seven altars refer to the altars built by Israel’s ancestors—­four of which were built by Abraham (The ArtScroll Sapirstein Edition Rashi/Numbers, p. 288). Whether this is true or not, this story can serve to teach us a lesson. Perhaps Balaam superstitiously thought that by returning to some place where humans in times’ past had encountered the Presence of YHVH he could actually find YHVH there. Matthew Henry in his commentary on this verse states, “Oh the sottishness of superstition, to imagine that God will be at man’s beck!” To resort to programs, rituals or methodologies to “conjure” up the Presence of YHVH can lead to idolatry and witchcraft. What “attracts” the Spirit of YHVH? Is it worship, praise, a repentant and humble heart, faith in him with obedience to his Word, and love for him or rituals, charms, incantations and religiosity? You know the answer.

Numbers 23:21, Perverseness in Israel. Balaam tried to find some iniquity, or some perversion in Israel that would give him legal grounds to curse Israel, but could find none. Remember, a curse causeless shall not land (Prov 26:2). Satan, the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10) has no legal grounds with which to attack the righteous of Yeshua who are submitted to the authority, will, Word and Spirit of YHVH (Jas 4:7), and who are under the blood of Yeshua, the Lamb of Elohim (Rev 12:11). How do we stay in such a spiritual state so that the attacks of the enemy have no legal ground to stick in our lives, and so that the fiery darts of Satan are instantly quenched? (Read compare and discuss Eph 6:10–18; Col 2:15; Luke 9:1; 10:19.)

Numbers 23:15–25, The arrogant hypocrisy of Balaam. Balaam calls YHVH “the Most High” and “the Almighty.” He had great respect for YHVH (as does Satan as we learn from James 2:19, “You believe that there is one Elohim, you do well: the devils also believe and tremble.”), but he did not have enough fear of, faith in and love for YHVH to obey him. Does this describe you? How much do you hold back loving YHVH with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?

Numbers 23:19, El is not a man that he should lie. Read the rest of this verse, which speaks about the immutable character of Elohim. (Also see Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8.) From the beginning in the Garden of Eden (thanks to the lies of Satan the serpent, see Gen 3:1–4), man has been under the spiritual delusion that Elohim changes his word, laws or commandments and that he doesn’t really mean what he says. That is to say, when YHVH gives a command, later on he may change his mind and his commands are no longer applicable to subsequent generations or people-groups. Down through the ages, church leaders have bought in to this lie of the enemy with regard to validity of the Torah as pertaining to the life of the redeemed believer. But by saying that the Torah is “done away with,” “has been nailed to the cross” “has been fulfilled in Jesus” meaning “he did it for us so that we don’t have to do it,” isn’t this really calling Elohim a liar? Now consider the numerous places throughout the Bible, the Word of Elohim, where the Torah is revealed as YHVH’s unalterable standard of righteousness for all time and for all people everywhere. (In this regard, read the following scriptures: Ps 119:44, 142, 144, 160, 172; Matt 4:4; 5:18–19; Rom 3:31; 7:12.) Who is really the liar? Man or Elohim?

Numbers 23:36, Balaam the man-pleaser. Balaam is desirous of pleasing Balak, even though he pretends to please YHVH. At heart Balaam is a man-pleaser, not a YHVH-pleaser. Yeshua castigated the religious hypocrites of his day for the same thing (John 12:43). What truly motivates you? Do you care more what men think when it comes to obeying the truth of YHVH? Do you often take the easy way out and the path of least resistance, which pleases the flesh and those around you rather than YHVH?

Numbers 24

Numbers 24:2, The Spirit of Elohim came upon him. We see from the Scriptures that the Spirit of YHVH can come on just about anyone, but this doesn’t mean that the Spirit dwells in them, leads them, or that such a person has a heart to love, serve and obey Elohim. For example, the Spirit of Elohim came upon King Saul who prophesied (see 1 Sam 10:9–11; 19:20–24), but Saul didn’t serve YHVH with his whole heart and eventually became a murderous, apostate occultist. Not only does the Bible warn us to beware of prophets who prophecy falsely (e.g. Deut 13:1–5; Jer 23:9–40; Ezek 13:2; 22:24; Isa 28:7; Matt 24:4–5; 2 Pet 2:1–3), but to beware false prophets or unrighteous individuals who YHVH may use to prophecy correctly—not because they are filled with the Spirit of Elohim, but simply because the Spirit of Elohim temporarily comes upon them to accomplish YHVH’s purposes.

Numbers 24:3, Balaam…hath said. In this statement, we see another character flaw of Balaam revealed. Here he gives no credit to YHVH for his prophetic word, but seeks his own glory. It’s as if he is saying, “I have heard the word of Elohim” with emphasis on himself rather than on Elohim, the source of the word. In the church world, how many times have you heard people declaring that “God told ME this…” and “God told ME that…”? It is almost as if they are trying to emphasize how spiritual they are, how close to Elohim they are, and how he somehow favors them above others. What caution does the Word of Elohim give us in this regard? (See Jer 9:23–24.)

Numbers 24:17, A Star out of Jacob. To what notable, kingly biblical figure is this prophecy referring? (See Matt 2:2; Rev 22:16 cp. Ps 2:1–12; Rev 17:14; 19:16. See also Rev 2:27; 12:5; 19:15.) This prophecy can have a double meaning in that it also pointed to King David who smote the Moabites and took possession of Mount Seir, the land of the Edom (vv. 17–18 cp. 2 Sam 8:2,14). 

However, both Christian and Jewish scholars have recognized the Messianic implications of this verse. For example, Akiva Ben Yosef, the rabbinic Jewish leader of the second century, applied this verse to Simon Bar Kosiba (whose name he changed to Kokhba meaning “son of the star” after the Star Prophecy of Num 24:17) who presumed to be the Messiah when he unsuccessfully attempted to defeat the Romans in the Second Jewish revolt. Additionally, Adam Clarke notes in his commentary on this verse that Moses Ben Maimon (or Maimonidies), the Medieval Jewish Torah scholar applied this verse to the future Messiah as do the Onkelos Targum and Jerusalem Targum (the ancient Jewish Aramaic translations of the Tankah). Rashi (the medieval JewishTorah scholar) and Sforno (the renaissance Jewish Torah scholar) in their Torah commentaries note the Messianic implications of the star of Balaam’s prophecy as well (Sforno Commentary on the Torah, ArtScroll Mesorah Series). 

One thing is certain, only Yeshua the Messiah can make the claim to having fulfilled this biblical prophecy! 


Balaam—A Subverter of Divine Gifts and a Prophet of Babylon

The name Balaam means “destruction of people.” The Hebrew word bela means “destruction, confuse, confound.” The Hebrew word am means people, tribe, nation. The name Balak means “waster, to annihilate.” He was king of Moab; distant cousins to Israel through Lot, Abraham’s nephew. The world, as well as the modern Christian church, is full of such prophets.

Balaam was from Pethor, a city located on the northern Euphrates and Tigress Rivers areas called Mesopotamia in modern Syria and including modern Iraq to the south.

Balaam was a soothsayer or diviner (one who foretells or predicts events, Josh 13:22). The ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash says that Balaam was a sorcerer, necromancer or wizard (one who consults evil spirits) and that the sublime prophecies he uttered over Israel were but temporary aberrations that YHVH granted him for the honor of Israel (ibid., p. 863). These prophecies also served to glorify YHVH in the eyes of the nations. Other commentators consider Balaam to have been a true prophet of YHVH gone bad. One may consider him to have been a bad prophet going good (i.e. learning obedience to YHVH). One could also consider him to have been a false prophet seeking personal fame and fortune but who, at the same time, had prophetic abilities that he misused by mixing paganism and the truth of YHVH. This seems to be the Scriptures’ view of Balaam, for 2 Peter 2:15 indicates that Balaam had some knowledge of the truth, but turned away from it loving instead the “wages of unrighteousness.” In the book of Revelation, we learn that Balaam attempted to lead the children away from Elohim and into idolatry. According to the Torah, this makes him a false prophet (Deut 13:5). YHVH commands false prophets to be put to death (Deut 13:5), and indeed, we read of Balaam’s death at the hands of the Israelites in Numbers 31:8.

YHVH used Balaam to instruct Israel in the righteousness of YHVH (Mic 6:5). YHVH can use anyone, even a secular or a false prophet or one’s enemy, to speak his words. He can even use a donkey to speak his word, as Balaam found out! YHVH is sovereign, all-powerful and always in control of everything.

The Jewish sages teach that the blessings from Balaam weren’t his, but were rather what YHVH put into his mouth and then drew out with a hook (Talmud Sanhedrin 1056). Jeremiah the prophet says that YHVH’s Word is like fire shut up in one’s bones and that one isn’t released or unburdened from it until it is given.

The Scriptures never paint Balaam in a positive light, but rather as a deceptive, greedy schemer and a very dangerous man (A Torah Commentary For Our Times, vol 3, p. 70b, Feldman Library, UAHC Press).

The Ramban, a Jewish Torah Medieval commentator, writes that it was YHVH’s intention to use Balaam, a “prophet” of the nations, to bless Israel all along.

There are many comic aspects to the story of Balaam (ibid., p. 68). YHVH actually mocks this famous, renowned “prophet” of the nations and “prophet” to kings by speaking to him through his ass. This “prophet or seer” could not even see the angel until YHVH opened his eyes. YHVH is always in control and he let Balaam know it in a most curious, humbling and demonstrative way.

Balaam was a also perverter of divine gifts (ibid., p. 68).

The story of Balaam shows the sovereignty of YHVH. He will even use lying spirits to do his bidding (see 2 Chr 18:19–21) or Satan to test and refine the character of a saint (as in the case of Job). Furthermore, he confounds the wise and turns their wisdom into foolishness and lifts up the simple and unlearned (Mic 6:5; 5:7–6:8 for context).

Men in the world want to be like YHVH’s saints and be recipients of the blessings of Israel and some even want to be numbered among YHVH’s chosen, but few want to walk the path of righteousness required to receive these blessings and privileges. Many will “court YHVH” by getting as close to him as possible without actually crossing over (becoming an Ivrit or Hebrew) and surrendering their all to him. This seems to have been Balaam’s demeanor. However, the sacrifice of laying aside fame and fortune was too great for Balaam to totally commit to obeying YHVH. Balaam could not leave the world and cross over from “Babylon” to Israel.

As YHVH, in love, sometimes denies the prayers of his people, likewise he sometimes grants the desires of the wicked in wrath (to accomplish his agenda that is bigger than them and which they know nothing about, Num 22:15–21).

Imagine the wickedness and foolishness (or arrogance!) of Balaam to think that YHVH would give him a curse against Israel, YHVH’s own people! YHVH, who made the ass to speak, pried out of a stubborn jackass of a man words contrary to the man’s own heart desires, making him to speak a prophetic word in accordance with divine will (Num 23:5, 9–10).

Balaam offered seven sacrifices on seven altars on a mountain high place used for Baal worship. Here we see a blend of the religion of YHVH (offering sacrifices to YHVH on rock altars) and paganism (seven altars instead of one, Num 23:4).

Balaam called YHVH “Most High” and “the Almighty.” He had great respect for YHVH (as does Satan, Jas 2:19), but he had no faith, fear or love of him to obey him (Num 23:15–25).

Balaam was desirous of pleasing Balak, even though he pretended to please YHVH. At heart he was a man-pleaser, not a YHVH-pleaser.

The story of Balaam is that of a man who had divine prophetic gifts, but who used these gifts for unrighteous, selfish and materialistic purposes. Though the Scriptures reveal that he heard the voice of YHVH, he was willful and disobedient, and did not fear YHVH enough to walk fully in obedience. False prophets (who attempted to entice Elohim’s people to follow false gods) and carnal prophets (who worshipped Elohim but who followed the dictates of their own hearts when prophesying) repeatedly plagued ancient Israel, and Yeshua stated that they would be active among his people in the last days (Matt 7:15; 24:11, 24; see also 2 Pet 2:1; 1 John 4:1).

Many people today, like Balaam, have prophetic gifts that they are misusing for personal, unrighteous or misguided purposes. Many such individuals will ply their trade within or on the fringes of the spiritual body of redeemed believers in these end times. Beware of such people!

 

What Are the Biblical Standards for Spiritual Leaders?

The Bible explicitly and implicitly delineates certain standards that must be met before one can assume leadership roles over the people of YHVH. Israelites should know what the Word of Elohim demands of leaders, and should expect leaders to meet those biblical standards. If they don’t, Israel should reject such individuals.

These standards must apply to leaders over and within congregations. Many individuals who are in ministry are not associated with a congregation, so it may be questioned whether these standards should apply to them as well. It seems self-evident that the same biblical standards that apply to leaders within a congregational context should also apply to itinerate minsters, while not connected to or holding leadership in a local congregation, yet they minister to local congregations, and therefore, are perceived to be leaders and elders within greater Israel by those they teach. Therefore, we take the approach that these ministry standards apply to all leaders within the spiritual body of Yeshua whether they are connected to a local body or not. The body of Yeshua is a interconnected, and all must be playing by the same rules, and be held to the same standards. 

We draw, furthermore, from the whole counsel of YHVH’s Word (i.e., Genesis to Revelation) guidelines for leadership qualifications. YHVH’s standards of righteousness for his leaders has not changed over the ages, for he has not changed. His character is inviolate and immutable, and what he requires of those whom he has appointed as servants over his people has not changed and is based on his character, which defines his standards of righteousness.

Prevalent Non-biblical Standards for Leadership

Within the Christian church and, as an offshoot of that, within the Messianic Israel, Messianic Jewish or Hebrew Roots movements, there are many non-biblical standards that, in the eyes of many people, qualifies a person for leadership roles within the body of Yeshua. These “qualification,” in fact, may or may not meet YHVH’s standards of leadership. Some of these “qualification” include:

  • Self-appointment resulting in the formation of a “successful” ministry. 
  • The use of ecclesiastical titles, the earning of academic degrees.  
  • Popularity among men. 
  • Oratory and public presentation skills.
  • Professional-looking packaging of persons, ministries, websites and materials to merchandized. 
  • The size of one’s following, mailing list, ministry, or all the material trappings associated with the ministry.
  • Length of time in the ministry.
  • Acceptance among peers and within the church.
  • Financial success.
  • The number of books published, the number electronic media one has been on. 

The Bible nowhere indicates that any of these criteria necessarily qualify one to be in a leadership role. In fact, the biblical record clearly shows that usually the more popular (among men) and successful (by  worldly standards) religious leaders were, in fact, more unpopular with YHVH. Yeshua, for example, when addressing the religious leaders of his day, emphatically stated that that which is highly esteemed (uplifted, eminent, exalted, influential or honorable) of men is an abomination (a foul thing, detestable or idolatrous) in the sight of Elohim (Luke 16:15). Why is this? Because YHVH looks at the heart of man, not on the outward appearance of things (1 Sam 16:7; Isa 29:13; Matt 15:8). YHVH sees the true content of a man’s character, which is often hidden under the false facade of appearance.

Biblical Standards of Leadership

What are some of the more obvious biblical standards that must be applied to all spiritual leaders in our day? Those leaders who reject any of these criteria we reject them as not meeting the biblical standards of leadership. The following is a list of criteria that one must meet in order to meet the qualifications of biblical leadership.  

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What YOU Need to Know Before Starting a Congregation

What follows is based on my personal experience of pastoring for more than 25 years 18 of which I was the head elder of the congregation my wife and I founded. I hope that you will find this information to be helpful. — Natan


Over the years, many people around the world have asked for my advice about starting a Hebraic home fellowship or congregation. I tell them all the same thing: I learned to pastor through the school of hard knocks with guidance from no one, although I sough it to no avail. Sadly, I had no one to mentor me. As a result, I made a lot of mistakes and learned by trial and error. Therefore, I’m happy to advise people in any way I can, so that they don’t make the same mistakes that I made. That is the purpose of the following article.

My wife and I started and pastored a Hebraic congregation in 1998 that met in our home for more than two years. When we outgrew our home, we rented a church building for another 15 plus years until the fall of 2016. 

As a result of our experience, dozens of folks have asked my help in mentoring them in starting Hebraic fellowships. To date, I have put nothing in writing on this subject until now. Perhaps some of the questions and suggestions below will be of value to those people daring enough to start a fellowship.

A Word to Those Desiring to Start a Fellowship

Before giving instructions to Timothy about the qualifications for being an elder, Paul had this to say about those desiring to serve as leaders in the congregation of the saints:

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. (1 Tim 3:1)

Desiring to start a fellowship is not a bad thing—especially if the Spirit of Elohim is leading you to do it. If not, forget it. What’s not of YHVH will fail. If  the Spirit is directing you, and you’re not being led by the dictates of your own carnal heart, then there are some things you need to consider first before launching out.

Are You Willing to Pay the Price?

Before starting a fellowship, one must ask oneself some hard questions. One must first count the costs; it’s going to “cost” you more than you think. Are you willing to pay the price?, Yeshua taught his disciples.

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it… (Luke 14:28)

Now let’s read the full context of Yeshua’s statement.

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Luke 12:27–33)

It is true that Yeshua was specifically speaking about evangelizing the lost, and not leading a congregation, but many of these same instructions still apply for those in pastoral ministry. For example, one never knows whether that person who is walking into your congregation is even saved, whether they are demonized or are just plain troubled people or flat-out troublemakers. A pastor will have to deal with all of the above…

To his disciples, when he first commissioned them to go out two by two to preach the gospel, Yeshua additionally said,

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.…Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.… A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! (Matt 10:16–1724–25)

Now you may want to start a fellowship that involves only your spouse, some family members and a few close friends with whom you already get along and agree, but what happens when other people want to join your group who you don’t know? What happens when these new folks have different ideas of how a congregation should be run, have conflicting biblical understandings and doctrinal views and turn out to be vocal, complainers, contentious or outright wolves in sheep’s clothing? What then? You’re happy little group is no longer! 

Over the years, we experienced this countless times, and over the past 20 years I have advised dozens of pastoral leaders who were going through the same trials. Don’t think it won’t happen to you; it will. You are not exempt from this trial by fire, for people are people. Yeshua experienced it, as did the apostles as well as the prophets before them all the way back to Moses in his struggles leading the children of Israel through the wilderness. This is because people are people, and the devil is working behind the scenes to steal, kill and destroy anything that is good.

One more thing: are you willing to have even those of your own household turn against you? Yeshua declared that his disciples must be willing to give up all to serve him.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW’; and ‘A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THOSE OF HIS OWN HOUSEHOLD.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matt 10:34–38)

The problem is that nearly everyone thinks that they’re an exception to the rule—that what Yeshua predicted would happen to his disciples who choose to serve him won’t happen to them. Before I started  pastoring, I didn’t take Yeshua’s warnings seriously. How could I? I didn’t know what I didn’t know! No one ever told me what to expect, except Yeshua, and, honestly, I thought that, for some strange reason, his warning wouldn’t come to pass in my own life. I was sure mistaken! Moreover, I doubt seriously that few professors in Bible college teach this either. This is probably because they have little or no real world experience leading a congregation. That’s why they know little about the real price that pastors and leaders have to pay to be true disciples of Yeshua.

Consider this. How did Yeshua’s apostles view themselves after having served him for years? As his bondservants (or slaves; Rom 1:12 Cor 4:5Gal 1:10Eph 6:6Phil 1:1Col 4:12Tit 1:1Jas 1:11 Pet 2:162 Pet 1:1Jude 1:1). Yes slaves! This is not a bad, but a good thing. Would you rather be a slave to the world, the flesh and the devil or to Yeshua? It’s either one or the other; there’s no middle ground in this game! There are great spiritual rewards for serving Yeshua, but most of them will be in the next life. The price is high, the cost is much, but the rewards are worth it to be a servant, yes, a slave, of the Master.

Some Hard Questions to Ask Yourself

Before starting a fellowship, ask yourself these hard questions:

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Deuteronomy 17 on Two or Three Witnesses, Spiritual (Congregational) Leadership

Deuteronomy 17:1–3, Sacrifice. Yeshua, for us, offered himself as a spotless Lamb without blemish. Do you give YHVH your best, or do you give him the crumbs and leftovers? For example, do you give YHVH the best part of the day (the morning) for prayer, Bible reading and devotion, or the end of the day when you are tired and ready for bed? Do you give YHVH the first fruits (tithe) of your income or the leftovers (or none at all)? How are you helping to advance his kingdom on earth by using the talents, time and abilities he has given you, or are you using your energies and abilities to satiate the lusts of your flesh?

Deuteronomy 17:6 (and 19:15), By the testimony of two or three witnesses. In the Bible, one could not be accused of a crime (i.e. a sin) without the testimony of two or three eyewitnesses. This admonition is repeated in the Testimony of Yeshua:

But if he will not hear you, then take with you one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. (Matt 18:16)

This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. (2 Cor 13:1)

Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. (1 Tim 5:19)

He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses. (Heb 10:28)

Most gossip and slander would stop if this commandment were followed, and thus much division and strife within the congregation of believers. 

How many times have you repeated hearsay and gossip without checking the source? Even if you know it to be true, is it beneficial and righteous to repeat it to others? One Jewish sage goes so far as to say that Messiah has not come back because of all the gossip and slander of the people of Israel. Perhaps. At the very least, the Spirit of Elohim is greatly grieved, our intimacy with Elohim is diminished, and our marriages, families, friendships and congregations are fractured, hurt or destroyed because we speak things that should not be uttered.

How often do we accuse, slander and gossip about other people through use of the “evil tongue” (lashon hara) without going through proper channels and following proper biblical protocols to resolve interpersonal conflicts as Yeshua instructed in Matthew 18? How often do we attack others and spread our evil reports and accusations about others when we were not even eyewitnesses to what occurred or were not involved in the matter? How often do we attack YHVH’s leaders and accuse them of evil when there are no other witnesses (1 Tim 5:19)? YHVH hates those who sow discord among brethren and lying false witnesses, and calls this practice an abomination (Prov 6:16–17, 19). So let’s all be careful with our mouths!

Deuteronomy 17:2–5, Dealing with wickedness. Probably no one reading this is involved in any of the gross idolatrous practices listed here, but there are those little foxes (or little sins) that spoil the grapes (Song 2:15) and the little bit of leaven (tiny sins) that inflates or sours the whole loaf of bread. What ­idols or heathen practices, unrighteous world views, worldly attitudes, secular tendencies, profane habits and thought ­patterns, verbal expressions, etc. have you assimilated into your life that are keeping you from walking a higher, and hence, a more intimate and anointed walk with YHVH? Ask the Ruach haKodesh (the Set-Apart Spirit) to reveal these spiritual idols and strongholds to you so you can rid your life of them.

Deuteronomy 17:8–13, Matters of controversy. How respectful and obedient are you to the spiritual leaders YHVH has placed over you? Or do you follow their wise counsel only if and when it suits you? Nowadays if we don’t like a leader we simply leave our congregation and find a new one. In ancient Israel, this was not an option, nor was it an option in the first century. There was only one congregation in each town, and if there was a disagreement, people had to learn to work out their differences. What if we were in that situation today? How would that change your method of operation if you couldn’t just “cut and run” whenever things didn’t go your way or you got offended?

Deuteronomy 17:14–20, King over you. It is YHVH’s will for Israel to be ruled by a king. In the Messianic Era (Millennium), King Yeshua the Messiah, the Son of David, will rule not only over Israel but over the entire world from Jerusalem. YHVH ordained righteous leadership to help guide his people in the ways of truth and righteousness. 

When there is no leadership, everyone does what is right in his own eyes as occurred during the time of the judges. The Bible gives numerous examples of the chaos that results in a society or a group of people where there is no leadership. For example, The ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash points out, “Two of the saddest episodes after Israel arrived in its Land—the graven image of Micah (Judg 17–18) and the atrocity involving the concubine at Gibeah (Judg 19–21)—are described by Scripture as having been possible only because there was no king in Israel (Judg 18:1; 19:1); had there been the leadership and discipline of a righteous king, he would never have permitted such outrages to take place” (pp. 1028–1029). 

Elohim is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33). Nowhere in the Bible does Elohim permit his people to be leaderless whether it was patriarchal leadership, Levitical leadership, the leadership of judges and prophets, kingly leadership, the leadership of apostles and elders culminating in the leadership of King Yeshua and the glorified saints that will be ruling with him as kings and priests in his millennial kingdom. 

Numerous times in Scripture, YHVH not only expects his  people to obey the righteous leaders he has put in place, but even unrighteous civil leaders (at least until they demand that one disobeys the higher laws of Elohim).

Many times in the Hebraic Roots Movement, one encounters folks who have been emotionally traumatized and hurt in the past by ungodly church leadership. As a result, many of these people now refuse to come under any leadership at all godly or otherwise. They pride themselves in establishing congregations and fellowships “where no one is the leader.” This is a recipe for disaster. Get back to me in one, two or five years and let me know who your experiment in this ungodly venture went. Eventually division and strife will tear such groups apart! After all, if everyone has equal say and anything can go on, who is going to stand up and say “this is wrong” and “that is unbiblical”? When grievous wolves in sheep’s clothing come in to tear the flock apart, who is going to put these agents of Satan out of the fellowship? 

No, leaderless groups are not a good thing. Those who want this are either naive when it comes to the machinations of human nature, or are they are rebels themselves and really don’t Elohim to rule over them, since he is the author of godly, righteous leadership

Do you resist YHVH-ordained leadership? If you have been hurt or “burned” by unscrupulous and self-serving leaders in the past, do you now refuse to recognize YHVH-ordained leadership thus losing the blessings that such leadership could bestow on your life? Let’s not throw the proverbial baby of righteous leadership out with the bath water because of our past hurtful experience. 

Deuteronomy 17:18, He shall write. The king was to know the Torah so that he could rule righteously based on the Word of YHVH. The book of Revelation says that the saints will be kings and priest ruling with Yeshua in the Millennium. Do you want to rule with him? If so, what are you doing now to prepare yourself for that position of responsibility? Is the study of YHVH’s Word a priority in your life or does it get bumped to last place after you have completed all the physical things you feel you need to do? How we prepare now for the future will determine our level of reward in YHVH’s kingdom. Will you be the least or the greatest? This will be determined by your study and practice of Torah. (See Matt 5:19.)

 

Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Company Explained

Ephesians 4:11, He gave some to be apostles. Did the so-called five-fold ministry offices cease after the New Testament era, or do they continue function in the body of Yeshua to this day? In our day, most people agree that the ministries of the evangelist, teacher and pastor are still in operation today, but many say that the offices of apostles and prophet have ceased to operate. Yet in verse 13, we read that these offices would operate “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah…,” which hasn’t happened yet. Therefore, it would stand to reason, that all these ministry offices are still needed today.

He. It must be kept in mind that Yeshua is the epitome of and over all (authoritatively) ministry offices that follow in this verse. When we ascended to heaven, he spread his own abilities out, as it were, among those he called to be leaders over his spiritual flock below (see Eph 4:8). Collectively, these ministry offices should be doing the work that Yeshua himself would be doing were he here on this earth presently.

Apostles. In addition to the twelve original apostles (including Matthias who replaced Judas Iscariot, Acts 1:26), here is a list of the other apostles, which might be called Yeshua’s ascension-gift apostles (Eph 4:8):

  • James, the half brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church (Gal 1:19)
  • Barnabas (Acts 14:14)
  • Paul (e.g. Acts 14:14)
  • Apollos (1 Cor 4:6–9)
  • Timothy and Silvanus (1 Thess 1:1 and 2:6)
  • Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25)
  • Titus, and other un-named apostles—at least two (2 Cor 8:23)
  • Andronicus and Junia (Rom 16:7)
  • Yeshua is the Apostle and High Priest of our confession (Heb 3:1)
  • Including Judas Iscariot, this makes a total of at least 26 apostles who are mentioned in the Testimony of Yeshua. 

With this list in mind, it now becomes logical to divide the apostles into at least three categories or level. Yeshua is the Chief Apostle. The original 12 that Yeshua appointed (minus Judas Iscariot) and possibly Paul would be the next tier. They are the foundational apostles. Yeshua mentions that the 12 apostles will rule over the 12 tribes of Israel and that the 12 foundations of the New Jerusalem are named after the 12 apostles (Rev 21:14). It seems that Yeshua commissioned these foundational apostles in direct, face-to-face encounters. After this come the lowest tier or ascension-gift apostles (Eph 4:8), which are all the other apostles.

Apostle Defined

Apostolos means “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders.” According to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, apostolos originally was a military or naval term relating to an expeditionary force that was sent out or dispatched. It came to be applied to a band of soldiers, or colonists and their settlement as well as to the commander of the expedition or an admiral. A common feature of all the definitions of the word was its passive character. In none of the definitions is there any suggestion of initiative on the part of the apostle. The word denotes the quality of being sent. In the New Testament, apostolos always denotes a man who is sent with full authority and is synonymous with the Hebrew word shaliach as is evidenced in John 13:16. Here is a legal term relating to one who is lawfully charged to represent the person and cause of another. This meaning is confirmed by the juxtaposition in this verse of the Greek words doulos/kurios and apostolos/pemptsas. Here the servant (doulos) stands under full jurisdiction of his master (kurios) and derives from him all that he is. Apostolos also denotes the “commissioned representative of a congregation” (Acts 13:2ff). Finally, the term signifies the “bearers or proclaimers of the NT message.” The latter meaning applied to not only the original twelve apostles that Yeshua commissioned and sent out, but to the first Christian missionaries or their most prominent representatives (Acts 14:4, 14). According to Paul, the apostles (1 Cor 12:28f) aren’t officials of the congregation, nor the chief of such officials, but are officers of Yeshua by whom the church is built (ibid. vol 1, p. 407ff). 

Attributes of an Apostolic Ministry 

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