Monday, April 20, 2015

The Danger of the Incompetency of the Officers of God’s Church

The Business of Christian Education C

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ ” And Aaron held his peace.
Leviticus 10:1-3
            Why is it that God’s servants must listen to His words very carefully?  Is it just some kind of lips service to say that God’s servants follow His words?  Is God’s command bearing a weighty authority or is it just an empty command that anybody can ignore?  Why God’s servants mustn’t take lightly the instructions of God?  The core answer to all these questions is that the world belongs to God, the church belongs to God, and the servants and the people also belong to God.  God is the only one with the proper right to give absolute commands.  Nobody on earth may ignore
God’s commands, how much more to rebel against them.  Not even a single being or inanimate object even may ignore God’s commands.  This is the basic foundation.  But yet, many God’s servants today dare to insult God by ignoring his very commands.  Why?

            As Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu were just ordained as God’s priests.  They were just given a very high position in the newly born nation, Israel.  Under Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu served as God’s officers.  Moses the Great Prophet and Aaron the High Priest.  Nadab and Abihu were fourth in command.  And God is King of all.  Under the direct order of the King himself, Moses instructed Aaron, the High Priest, and Nadab and Abihu, the priests.  With specific details of how to conduct their duties, Moses taught Aaron and his sons the way of the priests (starting from Exodus 24 until the end of Leviticus).  Regarding the incense and fire, God gave them a specific instruction in Exodus 30:7-9:

And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations. You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it.

This specific instruction is to be heeded particularly by the priests.  Our text in Leviticus 10 does not give the detail of how Nadab and Abihu’s offering is unauthorized.  It could be the kind of incense that is unauthorized.  It could be the time of the offering is off.  It is very likely that Nadab and Abihu offered fire (even though with incense) that is not instructed by the Lord.  And also it is very likely that the specific instruction was given to Aaron, the High Priest, to do, and not to other priests, not even to Aaron’s sons, because they were not High Priest.  For sure, the transgression led to a deadly judgment.  Nadab and Abihu should have known better.  Especially knowing that the specific instruction was for Aaron as High Priest and not for others.  They overstepped their boundary.  And God acted immediately.  God gave them no second chance.  Instead, God consumed them with fire right there and then.  God is very serious.  Why didn’t God act mercifully at this time?  He was merciless.  And we were left with fear and trembling.

            And that’s it.  The lasting emotion must be remembered clearly in the minds of the people, especially of God’s servants after them.  The fear of the Lord is the most important attitude as one enters into his service.  Obviously Nadab and Abihu didn’t have it.  They did not care of which was authorized or not.  Their high position as priests blinded them of God’s instructions.  They did not approach God with the proper attitude.  They did not serve God according to his commands.  Such ministry was unacceptable to the Lord.  When they served the Lord, they were not putting up a show for the people to see.  It was a service to God.  God is King.  He is to be honored properly.  Our text in verse 3 says: “‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ ”  God’s holiness must not be taken lightly.  God’s glory must not be undermined.  Hebrews 12:28-29 sums it up very well: “28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.”  Nadab and Abihu’s case is a hard lesson for all God’s servants not to repeat the same mistake.

            Sadly, however, many who claim to be God’s servants today have not learned the lesson of Leviticus 10.  These people take lightly God’s glory and holiness.  Their basic assumption is that God is their buddy.  That they can approach God casually.  That they can ignore God’s words and do whatever they feel like when ministering in his house.  Their resource is not God’s words anymore.  They resort to psychology.  They resort to sociology.  They resort to philosophy.  They resort to science.  They resort to business.  And they think by doing that they have become wise.  They think by doing that they have served the Lord.  Instead of approaching God with reverence and awe, they offer unauthorized service before the Lord.  They even dare to think that the case of Nadab and Abihu won’t apply for them because they think that now is the time of the New Testament, the time of love and grace and mercy.  But they forget the story of Ananias and Saphira in the book of Acts chapter 5 verses 1-11:

1But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

The event of Ananias and Saphira was also about offering.  They did not approach God with reverence and awe.  They did not fear the Lord in the first place.  They approached God as if he is their buddy.  They thought that bringing “unauthorized” offering was okay.  They thought they could get away by cheating God.  They received their judgment right away.  Death became their legacy.  New Testament era you think?  The era of love and grace and mercy?  Think again!  God also did not give Ananias and Saphira a second chance.  Just like he did not give Nadab and Abihu a second chance.  Why do you think?  And today you want to repeat the mistake of these people?  God is a consuming fire.  The fear of the Lord must be in our heart when we approach him.  It is very appropriate to fear him.  Don’t listen to lies.  Don’t listen to those who say that now is not the time to approach God in fear anymore.  Don’t listen to deception that says that because God is a loving God he will always permit you to do whatever your heart desire, even sin.  Especially, for God’s servants, pay attention carefully to the word of God, lest you be rejected by God.  Even the great Apostle Paul feared the Lord and said in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Paul carefully disciplined himself, following God’s instructions, because he knew who God is.  He understood the lessons in history as written in the Holy Scripture.  But many people who claim to be servants of God today do not understand the weight of God’s words.  They do not learn from history.  As Hegel said that the most important lesson in history is that people do not learn from history, even people of God too do not incline their heart to learn from God’s word, which includes the history of God’s people.

            It is a very sad feeling to know that God’s officers approach God casually.  It is sadder even when they teach God’s people to approach God casually.  These officers are incompetent in doing their service to the King.  They are not supposed to assume their office.  They are supposed to be dismissed.  They are supposed to learn from the cases of Nadab and Abihu and Ananias and Saphira.  And remember what Paul said in Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”  Nadab and Abihu sowed disobedience, and they reaped death.  Ananias and Saphira sowed deception, and they too reaped death.  God cannot be mocked!  If you think you can serve God with your incompetence, you are wrong.  God’s officers must be trained carefully.  God’s officers must go through rigorous discipline, just like Paul.  They cannot plead ignorance.  No!  Not after all the instructions are laid out before them.  If you know for certainty that you have not the competency as required by the word of God, then do not even consider of putting your name on the list.  The qualification of God’s officers is spelled out in his word.  It is to be followed.  It is not a decoration.  It is not a forgotten legend.  It is not an irrelevant instruction.  It must be heeded.  God gave specific instruction through Paul for the qualification of elders, God’s officers who are to be ordained to lead the church.  Titus 1:5-16 speaks of this:

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

1 Timothy 3:1-13 speaks in similar fashion, with an addition of the qualification of deacon:

1The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

The question is, have you followed this specific order?  Many times, this instruction of the word of God is ignored.  The main argument to do so is because they can’t find people who can satisfy the qualification as laid out by Paul.  And so they reduce the qualification.  And so they modify God’s instructions.  Don’t you fear the Lord?  And they argue: what if there is no one qualified?  The answer to that question is: Have you no faith?!  Don’t you think that the King is able to equip and prepare and then send qualified people for the task in his own house?  Or are you like Saul, who was impatient when he had to wait for Samuel to arrive?  And thus he “qualified” himself, who was unqualified, and offered sacrifices to God.  Saul, by doing so, offered an unauthorized offering to God.  What was his judgment?  1 Samuel 13:13-14 records:

13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”

Saul was rejected!  Saul did not fear God.  He feared the people.  He was not the king after God’s heart.  He was the king after the people’s heart.  Because Saul always wanted to please the people.  Therefore, God deemed him unfit to become his servant.  Saul was not God’s servant.  He was the people’s servant.

            Incompetent officers cannot serve God.  They can’t call themselves God’s servants and ignore his instructions.  When they do that, they are immediately unfit for service.  They must be removed.  God might not do things as dramatic as in the time of Nadab and Abihu or in the time of Saul or in the time of Ananias and Saphira, but that doesn’t mean that God does not judge.  Do not mistake his not dramatic action as approval of your transgression and disobedience.  It is a dangerous thing to assume that when God does not act dramatically it means that God approves.  If you do so, you have not known God.  It is also a dangerous thing to assume that you can endorse unqualified and incompetent officers thinking that God is merciful therefore he will allow his house to be run casually without discipline.  If you are sick, would you want an unqualified and incompetent doctor to examine you and write prescription for you, and even conduct surgery on you?  If you do not wish that, how can you allow unqualified and incompetent officers to run God’s house?  That unqualified and incompetent doctor might wreck you, and worse might kill you.  In the same way, those unqualified and incompetent officers might wreck the house of God and even destroy it.  Don’t you think that the house of God is of more value than your own body?

            Now, to those who claim to be officers of God, have you examined yourself?  Have you disciplined yourself just like Paul did, so that you might carefully minister and serve the Lord?  Or are you taking everything casually and without discipline serve the Lord?  Do you think you will get away with it?  If you are a servant in the royal palace during the reign of Arthur the First King of England, do you think you can serve him casually?  Don’t you know that you are serving God, the Lord, the King of the whole wide world?  But why aren’t you serving him with reverence and awe?  Why aren’t you serving him with fear and trembling?  Even King David and King Solomon feared God and approached him with trembling.  Or do you think you are high above David and Solomon and even Moses and the prophets?

            Many of these kind of officers no longer have reverence and awe of God because they do not serve God.  They are like Saul.  They serve the people.  Their heart is set to please the people.  So, instead of listening to God’s word, they listen to the word of the people.  For them, the people is their king.  And because these are mere human beings, they do not approach ministry with fear and trembling anymore.  They approach ministry casually, because their king is their friends, their childhood buddies.  As Saul removed God from his heart, so these officers have removed God from his own house.  Or more accurately, these officers have moved the house away from God’s presence.  They pretend they serve God, but in actuality there is no God in the house anymore.  As the world rejected Jesus when he incarnated, so these officers too have rejected God.  And they feed the people with junk.  It is no longer God’s agenda that is being done, but their own.  And their agenda is to give the people whatever they want.  Incompetent officers lead to the destruction of the house.  Those who claim to be officers of God, and yet incompetent, will lead God’s house to destruction.  Nadab and Abihu were not given a second chance; it is a lesson, a very hard lesson, a very dramatic lesson, for the purpose to stop immediately the corruption in the house of God.  The next priests must not do the same mistake.  Ananias and Saphira were not given a second chance either, so that the corruption would stop immediately.  And people might learn not to repeat their mistake.  How about you?  Do you dare to approach God’s sanctuary casually?  Without reverence and awe?  Officers of God, do you dare serve him incompetently?  Do you dare assume the position as God’s officers without proper qualifications?

The qualifications as spelled out in the Scripture are not impossible qualifications.  They are there for a reason.  God’s house must be put in order.  And he himself is the one giving the gifts of the Spirit so that his people may be qualified to serve (Ephesians 4:11-14).  They are qualified not because they qualify themselves.  They are qualified because God qualifies them.  But God’s instruction must be followed.  Again, the world belongs to God.  The church belongs to God.  God’s servants must understand this!  Church does not belong to people.  Market driven church is no church.  Church must obey God.  Church must listen to God’s instruction.  It doesn’t exist by itself.  It doesn’t serve itself.  Church exists to serve God.  The Book of Revelation reveals how disobedient churches are rebuked by Jesus Christ.  God’s officers must know that they can’t approach God ignorantly.  All of those entering God’s service must be trained accordingly.  Jesus trained his apostles in very strict discipline before they could minister.  Paul must be trained carefully before he could serve the Lord properly.  All God’s servants must be trained properly because they are entering into the service of the King of kings.  Anybody who says that anyone may come and serve the Lord without proper qualifications and competencies is lying.  Before Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu entered into God’s service, they had to be prepared first.  Instructions were given in great detail.  Ordination ceremonies had to be held in great honor.  No one without proper ordination may assume the role as God’s officers.  Even Jesus himself had to be baptized, anointed, and tested.  Jesus waited 30 years before he entered God’s ministry.  All propriety must be followed.  But nowadays, people casually assume the officers’ duty as if it is a trivial matter.  People casually call people who are not ordained as their teachers, pastors, evangelists, prophets, and apostles.  It is true that ceremonial ordination might not necessarily be a sign of true officers.  There are some ordained officers who are actually false officers.  Clearly the Old Testament and New Testament could testify about it.  But no true officers are exempted from God’s ordination.  We can always go back to Jesus our Lord, the chief prophet, apostle, evangelist, pastor, and teacher.  He himself did not skip ceremonial ordinations.  He went through all that.  How could you say that such ceremony is not important?  Even his apostles had to go through some kind of ceremony, the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

Unqualified and incompetent officers have no place in the service of the King.  No one may excuse themselves from service either.  Because every Christian is indeed given at least one gift of the Spirit.  1 Corinthians 12:4-11 attests to this:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Anyone who is a Christian, but trying so hard to excuse oneself from service must carefully reflect whether he/she is truly a Christian.  Anyone who is a Christian, but playing humble and argues that he/she does not have the competence to serve God, even though it is already given, will have to answer God himself.  Remember the parable of the talents?  Matthew 25:14-30?  The third servant accused his master as a cruel and heartless master.  This third servant was actually lazy so he hid the talent that was entrusted to him to work on.  One talent is about 6,000 denarii.  One denarii is a day’s wage of common worker.  So one talent equals to about 16 years of common worker’s wage.  It is not a small amount of money.  But the third servant was lazy.  In his laziness, he had to manufacture a story to justify his idleness.  So he had to come up with a story, and his story was accusing the master of having a flawed character.  What a crooked servant he was.  Now, do you know the end of the parable?  The Master was furious, so he said:

‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Incompetent officers of God?  There can’t be incompetent officers in God’s house.  God will not permit it.  He himself has lavishly given the spiritual gifts to each and every believer.  So there is no excuse.  God is very serious indeed.  We too as his servants must be serious.  We must not take God lightly.  We cannot undermine God’s glory and holiness.  If you do, consequences will follow.  God deserves to be approached in reverence and awe.  He deserves our fear and trembling.  For he is a consuming fire after all.  He is the Alpha and the Omega.  He is the beginning and the end.  He is God of all the world.  How dare you stand before the Lord as if he is your equal?!

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