Last updated: March 18. 2014 3:45PM - 438 Views
By Robert C. Oliver Contributing columnist

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Robert C. Oliver

The apostle Peter wrote, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God…” (I Pet. 4:11). In essence, this tells us to use the words that God used in His holy word when addressing the issues of Christianity. During the restoration movement of the latter part of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century, slogans were often used that pointed to this same concept. They said things like, “call Bible things by Bible names, and do Bible things in Bible ways”. In essence they were saying the same thing that Peter said by inspiration. That which is called Christianity today fails miserably in this command. We wish to consider a few terms and such that serve as examples of where people no longer speak as the oracles of God.

The first that we will consider is the use of the term “reverend” as a title for a preacher. A good method and habit for every subject is to look and see if such is found in the New Testament. One can read from Matthew 1:1 through Revelation 22:21 and they will not find a single Christian going by the title “reverend”. The apostle Paul often pointed out that he was an apostle and that he was a servant, but he never identifies himself as Reverent Paul. The same could be said of the other writers of the New Testament. That by itself tells us that to do so is to not speak as the oracles of God. The only time one can find this word used in the Bible is in the Psalms where the psalmist says, “He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name” (Psalm 111:9). Since God’s name is “reverend”, it would seem quite arrogant for a mere man to wear that name.

A second consideration also has to do with the name that many preachers wear. Most are referred to as “the pastor” of their church. Again, let us go through the entire New Testament and see if we can find a single preacher that is called “the pastor”. The result of your search will be, no there is not a one. This then tells us that to call the preacher “pastor” is not speaking as the oracles of God. The only time the word is used in the New Testament is when Paul says that the Lord “gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). No where in that verse can one come up with the idea that the preacher is to be called the pastor. Just what is a pastor? There are three terms used in reference to the same office, the terms are; bishops, elders and pastors. There was to be a plurality of these men in each congregation (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). That they are all the same office can be seen in the account of Paul calling the elders of the church in Ephesus to Miletus (Acts 20:17). As noticed, they are called elders in verse seventeen, yet he tells them, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). The word that is translated “overseers” is the same word that is translated “bishop” in the passage where the qualifications for “bishops” is given (I Tim. 3:1-7). Titus also is told the qualifications, but they are called “elders” in that text (Titus 1:5-9). Also, the word that is translated “feed” in Acts 20:28 is the same word that is translated “pastors” in Eph. 4:11). There is one way that the preacher can also be called “pastor”. This is if he is serving as both a preacher and an elder. For instance, Peter was both an apostle and an elder (I Peter 5:2).

A third term or terms that we wish to consider is the name that the church should wear if one is speaking as the oracles of God. In the New Testament, the church is often referred to as the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18), and the kingdom of the Lord (Col. 1:13). When the word “church” is used in reference to this kingdom, it is sometime just stated, “the church” and sometimes a geographical location is added to specify a certain congregation. When describing the church concerning ownership, in every case deity is specified. Paul wrote to the church of God at Corinth, and later said, “The churches of Christ salute you” (I Cor. 16:16). One can search through the yellow pages of their phone book and find pages of churches listed for which the name can not be found in the Bible. Has anyone ever read in the New Testament of a Baptist Church, a Methodist Church, a Episcopal Church, a Lutheran Church or on and on the list could go? The answer is of course “no”. Thus to use these terms in reference to the church that Jesus built would be to not speak as the oracles of God. To speak as the oracles of God would be to call the church just what the church is called in the New Testament.

The point of all this is to illustrate how far those who call themselves Christians have come from obeying the command to “speak as the oracles of God”. Some may think that all of this is just minor changes and therefore do not matter to God. However, the word of God teaches from beginning to end that mere man does not have the authority to change His word in any way. As Paul said, some “would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:7).

(Editor’s note: Send any questions or comments to: rcoliver@centurylink.net)

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