Read Luke 1:1-25
Luke gives us the most detailed account of Jesus birth in describing Jesus birth, childhood and development. Luke lifts up the humanity of Jesus. Our Savior was the ideal human. Fully prepared, the ideal human was now ready to live the perfect life.
Luke tells Jesus’ story from Luke’s unique perspective of a Gentile, a physician, and the first historian of the early church. Though not an eyewitness of Jesus ministry. Luke never the less is concerned that eyewitness accounts be preserved accurately and that the foundations of Christian belief be transmitted in text to the next generation. In Luke’s Gospel are many of Jesus’ parables. In addition, more than any other Gospel, it gives specific instances of Jesus concern for women.
There was a lot of interest in Jesus, and many people had written firsthand accounts about him. Luke may have used these accounts and all other available resources as material for an accurate and complete account of Jesus’ life, teachings and ministry. Because truth was important to Luke, he relied heavily on eyewitness accounts. Christianity doesn’t say, “Close your eyes and believe.” but rather, “Check it out for yourself.” The Bible encourages you to investigate it’s claims thoroughly (John 1:46; 21:24; Acts 17:11, 12) because your conclusion about Jesus is a life and death matter.
Theopihilus means “one who loves God.” The book of Acts, also written by Luke is likewise addressed to Theophilus. This preface may be a general dedication to all Christian readers. Theophilus may have been Luke’s patron who helped to finance the book’s writing. More likely. Theophilus was a Roman acquaintance of Luke’s with a strong interest in the new Christian religion.
As a medical doctor, Luke knew the importance of being thorough. He used his skills in observation and analysis to thoroughly investigate the stories about Jesus. His diagnosis? The gospel of Jesus Christ is true! You can read Luke’s account of Jesus’ life with confidence that it was written by a clear thinker and a thoughtful researcher. Because the gospel is founded on historical truth, our spiritual growth must involve careful, disciplined, and thorough investigation of God’s Word so that we can understand how God has acted in history. If this kind of study is not part of your life, find a pastor, teacher, or even a book to help you get started and to guide you in this important part of Christian growth.
The events leading up to Jesus birth can be summarized by the angel’s words: “God can do anything!”
Hope is not what you expect, it is what you would never dream. It is a wild, improbable tale with a pinch-me-I’m-dreaming ending. Its Abraham adjusting his bifocals so he can see not his grandson, but his son. It’s Moses standing in the Promised Land not with Aaron or Miriam at his side, but with Elijah and the transfigured Christ. It’s Zechariah left speechless at the sight of wife Elizabeth, gray-headed and pregnant. And it is the two Emmaus-bound pilgrims reaching out to take a piece of bread only to see the hands from which it is offered dare pierced.
Hope is not a granted wish or a favor performed; no, it is far greater than that. It is a zany, unpredictable dependence on a God who loves to surprise us out of our socks and be there in the flesh to see our reaction.
(From God Came Near by Max Lucado)
What are your greatest dreams? Remember, God can do anything, and he loves to fulfill dreams. Ask God to show you what he wants you to do, and then ask him for the power and courage to do it.
What do you learn from verses 1-4 about Luke? About the reason he wrote this gospel? About where he got his sources?
When we call God the Almighty, we call Him by His name because He has all might. He is all-powerful. There is nothing that He cannot do. He is the Lord God omnipotent….
The power of God is seen in the creation of the universe and human kind. Then think of the power that holds matter together, the power of God in sustaining the universe, in maintaining the planets in their orbits, in preserving His creatures, and in answering prayer.
We see divine omnipotence in floods, fires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, storms, winds, and waves. We see it in the healing of diseases…
Our hearts should be filled with worship and the fear of the Lord when we meditate on the omnipotence of our Lord…. There are very practical lessons to be learned from the omnipotence of God. The first lesson is that an individual cannot fight successfully against God. It would be like a gnat trying to fight against a blast furnace in a steel mill….
A second lesson is that those who are friends of God are on the side of divine omnipotence and therefore on the winning side. At any particular time the waves may seem to be against us, but the tide is sure to win. We need not fear what others can do to us….
The final lesson that I will mention is that the omnipotence of God serves as comfort and encouragement to His people. What a consolation to know that our God can do anything, that nothing is impossible for Him!…. Although He has no problems, he is able to cope with any problem we may be facing….
(From Alone in Majesty by William MacDonald)
No defense is too strong for God. No barrier will keep God from fulfilling his word. What impassable barriers do you face? Do you believe God can deliver you? Get together with a Christian friend. Share your obstacle and ask that person to pray with you for confidence.
A Jewish priest was a minister of God who worked at the temple managing its upkeep, teaching the people the Scriptures, and directing the worship services. At this time there were about 20,ooo priests throughout the country-far too many to minister in the temple at one time. Therefore the priest were divided into 24 separate groups of about 1,000 each, according to David’s direction (1 Chronicles 24:3-19).
Zechariah was a member of the Abijah division, on duty particular week. Each morning a priest was to enter the Holy Place-in the temple and burn incense. Lot’s were cast to decide who would enter the sacred room, and one day the lot fell to Zechariah. But it was chosen that day to enter the Holy Place-perhaps a once in-a-lifetime opportunity. God was guiding the events of history to prepare the way for Jesus to come to earth.
Zechariah and Elizabeth didn’t merely go through the motions in following God’s laws; they backed up their outward compliance with inward obedience. Unlike the religious leaders whom Jesus called hypocrites, Zechariah and Elizabeth did not stop with the letter of the law. Their obedience was from the heart and that is why they are called “upright in the sight of God.”
Incense was burned in the temple twice daily. When the people saw the smoke from the burning incense, they prayed. The smoke drifting heavenward symbolized their prayers ascending to God’s throne.
Angels are spirit beings who live in God’s presence and do his will. Only two angels are mentioned by name in Scripture-Michael and Gabriel-but there are many who act as God’s messengers. Here, Gabriel (1:19) delivered a special message to Zechariah. This was not a dream or vision. The angel appeared in visible form and spoke audible words to the priest.
What stands out to you about Zechariah and Elizabeth (vv. 5-7)? Barrenness was seen as a sign of God’s disfavor and a legitimate reason for divorce. What feelings must the couple have had in light of their barrenness?
What was the significance of the task for which Zechariah was chosen (see 1 Ch. 23:13)? Since many priest never had this opportunity, what might he be feeling as he prepares for it? How about when the angel appears?
Zechariah, while burning incense on the altar, was also praying, perhaps for a son or for the coming of the Messiah. In either case, his prayer was answered. He would soon have a son who would prepare the way for the Messiah. God answers prayer in his own way and in his own time. He worked in an “impossible” situation-Zechariah’s wife was barren-to bring about the fulfillment of all the prophecies concerning the Messiah. If we want to have our prayers answered, we must be open to what God can do in impossible situations. And we must wait for God to work in his time.
John means “the Lord is gracious” and Jesus means “the Lord saves.” Both names were prescribed by God., not chosen by human parents. Throughout the Gospels, God acts graciously and saves his people. He will not withhold salvation from anyone who sincerely comes to him.
John was set apart for special service to God. He may have been forbidden to drink wine as part of the Nazarite vow, an ancient vow of consecration to God (see Numbers 6:1-8). Samson (Judges 13) was under the Nazarite vow, and Samuel may have been also (1 Samuel 1:11).
This is Luke’s first mention of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity; Luke refers to the Holy Spirit more than any other Gospel writer. Because Luke also wrote the book of Acts, we know he was thoroughly informed about the work of the Holy Spirit. Luke recognized and emphasized the Holy Spirits work in directing the founding of Christianity and in guiding the early church. The presence of the Spirit is God’s gift given to the entire church at Pentecost. Prior to that God’s Spirit was given to the faithful for special tasks. We need the Holy Spirit’s help to do God’s work effectively.
How would the birth of this son affect Zechariah and Elizabeth? How would you describe his mission in your own words? Why would Zechariah doubt?
In what ways do you feel spiritually barren? How might this account of Elizabeth and Zechariah affect your feelings of barrenness?
John’s role was to be almost identical to that of an Old Testament prophet-to encourage people to turn away from sin and back to God. John is also compared to the great prophet Elijah, who was known for standing up to evil rulers (Malachi 4:5; Matthew 11:14; 17:10-13).
In preparing people for the Messiah’s arrival, John would do “heart transplants.” he would take stony hearts and exchange them for hearts that were soft, pliable, trusting, and open to change (See Ezekiel 11:19, 20 and 36:25-29 for more on “heart transplants.”) Are you open to God as you should be? Or do you need a change of heart?
When told he would have a son, Zechariah doubted the angel’s word. From Zechariah’s human perspective, his doubts were understandable-but with God, anything is possible. Although Zechariah and Elizabeth were past the age of childbearing, gave them a child. It is easy to doubt or misunderstand what God wants to do in our lives. Even God’s people sometimes make the mistake of trusting their intellect or experience rather than God. When tempted to think that one of God’s promises is impossible, remember his work throughout history. God’s power is not confined by narrow perspective or bound by human limitations. Trust him completely.
Zechariah thought it incredible that he and his wife at their old age, could conceive a child. But what God promises he delivers. And God delivers on time! You can have complete confidence that God will keep his promises. Their fulfillment may not be the next day, but they will be “at the proper time.” If you are waiting for God to answer some request or to fill some need, remain patient. No matter how impossible God’s promises may seem what he has said in His Word will come true at the right time.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were both faithful people, and yet they were suffering. Some Jews at that time did not believe in a body resurrection, so their hope of immortality was in their children. In addition, children cared for their parents in their old age and added to the family’s financial security and social status. Children were considered a blessing, and childlessness was seen as a curse. Zechariah and Elizabeth had been childless for many years and at this time they were too old to expect any change in their situation. They felt humiliated and hopeless. But God was waiting for the right time to encourage them and take away their disgrace.
What did the people think when Zechariah emerged from the temple mute?
When was the last time you doubted God? What caused your doubt?
How is John’s mission a model for your mission today? How might you “prepare” people for the Lord?
There are times when you cannot understand why you cannot do what you want to do. When God brings the blank space, see that you do not fill it in, but wait. The blank space may come in order to teach you what sanctification means, or it may come after sanctification to teach you what service means. Never run before God’s guidance. If there is the slightest doubt, then He is not guiding. Whenever there is doubt – don’t.
In the beginning you may see clearly what God’s will is – the severance of a friendship, the breaking off of a business relationship, something you feel distinctly before God is His will for you to do, never do ot on the impulse of that feeling. If you do, you will end in making difficulties that will take years of time to put right. Wait for God’s time to bring it round and He will do it without any heartbreak or disappointment. When it is a question of the providential will of God, wait for God to move.
(From My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers)
God insists on obedience to his commands no matter how small or strict they may seem. Only then can we enjoy his blessing. God does not seek partial compliance with his instructions. We must obey him completely. Did you participate in a questionable activity during the last week? Was it sin? Evaluate honestly. If you are unsure, avoid the activity next time.
Christianity arose from the life, preaching, and death of Jesus of Nazareth. It began as a renewal movement within Palestinian Judaism, and its first members regarded their faith in the risen Jesus not as a new religion but as a confirmation of God’s promise to Israel. They were the people of the new covenant for-shadowed in Jer. 31:31. Their acceptance of Jesus as Messiah and Christ (the Anointed One) would have meant little outside the confines of Judaism. Saul or David could be “the Lord’s Anointed,” but anointing played no part in pagan religious rites. The earliest Christian confession of faith preserved in 1 Cor. 8:6 written in circa A. D. 53, opened with the assertion that there was one God, and conformed to the basic confession of Israel (Deut. 6:4). Indeed, Paul never envisaged a permanent breach with Judaism. The first generations of Christians inherited their Scripture and many of their characteristic attitudes and beliefs as well as much of their organization from the Jews. Their problems were Jewish problems.
Most scholars agree that Jesus himself picked out twelve laymen as his twelve apostles, a reflection of the fullness of salvation for all humankind, a kind of twelve tribes of Israel of the New Age. When Judas died the eleven filled up the gap by the election of Matthias, but there it ended. When peter died or James, John or Andrew or any of the others, there was no attempt on the part of the early church to replace them or to keep the twelve going as a distinct numerical institution. In fact, with uncommon suddenness, the twelve are not mentioned again after the death of Stephen. They quickly disappear.
Phrases such as “the Fatherhood of God” and “the brotherhood of man” have become trite through familiarity, but they were not trite when Jesus preached them. For Jesus, however, God was not only Lord, but a loving Father to be approached through prayer, through action and above all, through submission to His will. God was not only the God of Israel and Creator of the universe, but one to be understood; in Paul’s words, “God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ABBA! Father!” (Gal. 4:6). All believers could become “sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:45). The Kingdom of heaven was seen in terms of a family with “little children” as the true members. The command also to “love your neighbor as yourself,” though set down in Leviticus (19:18), for the congregation of Israel was given a new and universal application. Few if any Jews of Jesus’ time would have included Samaritans among neighbors to be loved. Yet no one who read the Parable of the Good Samaritan could henceforth regard them otherwise. The lessons of mutual support respect, and help taught by Jsesus were to be among the hallmarks of his followers in the first centuries of the church. “See how they love one another” (Tertullian Apology 39) was a pagan, not a Christian observation.
He spoke “as one who had authority” and not (for example by quoting precedents) as the scribes (mark 1:22). His word was “with authority” (Luke 4:32). “Elijah” or “John the Baptist” returned to earth was how his secular ruler Herod Antipas viewed him (Mark 6:14-16/Luke 9:7-9). For the Galileans, he was “the prophet,” foreshadowed in Deut. 18:15, greater than David and foretold by a succession of prophets. Such was Peter’s interpretation of his life (Acts 2:34, 3:22) and thus he was in the eyes of these who heard him and experienced his cures (cf. John 9:17). “Even wind and sea obey him” (Mark 4:41), it was said. Whatever else may or may not be true, vivid memories of his words and work survived in Galilee long after the crucifixion.
In their final form the Gospels are works reflecting the faith and attitudes of Christian communities some two generations after the crucifixion. Their writers were concerned with the “gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1) and not a historical biography.
The Pauline Ministry
Paul’s ideas were different. In his lifetime his churches were moving away from the Jerusalem model. In Jerusalem, James seems to have presided over elders who formed a sort of Christian Sanhedrin. His power was authoritative if not absolute. In 57-58 the Temple seems still to have been a dominating factor in the life of the community. Taxes were paid to it (cf. Matt. 17:24), and the performance by Christians of the obligations of the Nazarite vow in the Temple seems not to have been unusual (Acts 21:23). Paul also had a strong authoritarian streak in his character. His was the only message. “If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received,” In the Pauline churches, however, there was no high priestly succession but a wide range of office holders, apostles, prophets, teachers (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11), who moved from place to place, alongside the presbyters and subordinate “helpers,” “administrators,” and “speakers in various kinds of tongues” who served a local congregation. All baptized Christians lived under the inspiration of the Spirit and all were equal in the sight of the Lord. That admitted, officers were being appointed in each community and the churches became centers of a fairly elaborate social structure based on the households of the converted as well as individual converts such as Philemon (Phlm. 1-3) or Gaius at Corinth (Rom. 16:23). The earliest specifically Christian officials were the “Prophets and teachers” mentioned in Acts 13:1. These continued throughout the period of Paul’s mission and beyond. In the first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas left their newly founded congregations under the leadership of presbyters. “They had appointed elders for them in every church” (Acts 14:23). In his letter to the Philippians, however, Paul refers to “bishops and deacons” there (Phil. 1:1). The contradiction maybe more apparent than real. The deacon was always the subordinate whether in the liturgy or dispensing works of mercy. The presbyter and bishop were one and the same individual, which Paul shows when he addressed the leaders of the church of Ephesus at Miletus in 58 (Acts 20:17, 28). Outwardly, the Pauline churches were modeled on existing Jewish synagogues. The offices brought in to being through the needs of the Spirit in the brief period before the end, however, would soon settle into more fixed molds of organization with clear-cut disciplinary rules when that event was delayed.
The Christian Ministry
The main division was the residential and the itinerant ministries.
In each Christian community, however, there was also a residential ministry, consisting probably of presbyter – bishops, each with an allotted function that administered its affairs, taught, and celebrated the liturgy. Those appointed had to be “blameless” the husband of one wife,” and so on (Titus 1:6-9), and “were not to be despised” (Didache 15:2). but clearly were inferior to the itinerant ministers who could expect sustenance in the form of first fruits of oil and wine from the communities they visited. In the last resort, the churches had been founded “by the apostles and prophets,” who in Paul’s mind were the interpreters of the Spirit and stood in immediate relation to the “cornerstone” – Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:20).
By the end of the century, however, there had been a marked move away from the collegial system of church government and a decline in the influence of the itinerants. The great men had died; prophecy was not being poured out as expected in the last times. We find communities now being governed by a single officer, whether known as “bishop,” “Presbyter,” or simply as “chairman,” as in Rome in Justin’s time, c. 150.
Polycarp’s congregation at Smyrna, a church of whom the Seer also approved, was a neatly graded hierarchical community centered on himself, with each grade in the church – the presbyter, deacons, widows, and “young men” – having its respective duties.
We can see this happening in the Rome of 1 Clement where the presbyter-bishops were believed to derive their offices from the apostles, and then, in the celebrated and much discussed text (I Clement XLIV. 1-5), “they [the apostles] then made a decree that when these died, other eminent men should succeed to their ministry.” and having been appointed “with the agreement of the whole church” should not be removed while they “ministered to the flock of Christ blamelessly and in all humility, peaceably and nobly.” They were the men of the Spirit and would in practice hold their appointments for life. The emergence of a single leader in each community, possessing par-excellence the gift of the Spirit, may also owe something to the same evolutionary processes. Administration of discipline and refutation of heretical views needed a single responsible official.
It would seem that persecution broke up the twelve and the Jewish Christians had to flee from Jerusalem. We might surmise that since the whole concept of the twelve is so basically Jewish, modeled after the twelve tribes of Israel, there was no inclination to keep such a foreign notion going when the church moved to the gentile world. Therefore, the early Christians turned to other forms to hand on the apostolic tradition. This is a clear indication that Jesus obviously did not provide a blueprint for his church organization. He left his intentions, genius and desires but gave the church total freedom to develop what forms would best fulfill these hopes.
There is that section in the gospel (Lk 10:1-12) where Jesus gives very exact instructions to the seventy-two disciples to go and evangelize. It is a carefully laid out program. Yet here too, even though originated by Jesus, there is no attempt to replace the seventy-two as an institution. Finally, there is that other ministry we are sure of from scripture: the origin of the seven so-called deacons (Acts 6:1-3). But it is clear that these seven developed into much more than waiters on tables. In reality they became a new band of traveling apostles and took over many of the original functions of the twelve apostles such as leading prayer and preaching.
We all remember “deacon” Philip and the Ethiopian he evangelized and baptized. We remember “deacon” Stephen who preached and was killed for his witnessing efforts . So we see that the various ministerial responsibilities of the twelve apostles, the seventy-two disciples, and the seven deacons – all found in scripture – were quickly distributed among others such as, as we shall see, the prophets and the teachers. For example, Barnabus and others are described in the new Testament as “conducting the worship of the Lord and fasting” and teaching and proclaiming the inspired word of the Lord in the liturgical assemblies.
The point that comes across is that from the beginning of the new church the controlling ideal of ministry seems to be the communities’ needs arising from their grounding in Christ. Any structure that serves this ideal is legitimate. The church did not consider itself bound even to forms that Jesus used. Rather it took from him that perfect freedom to build up his body, the church, and to proclaim the Good News in those forms and structure that best seem to do the job. This being so, we should not the surprised to discover in the New Testament and contemporary Christians writings a great deal of fluidity in ministry and leadership and no absolutely fixed forms of either. That would come later after the church settled down; until them the catchword is development.
The church came up with many ministries, best demonstrated by Saint Paul’s image of one body with many members. This means that primitive ministry is being shaped by the needs of that body and not the other way around.
We find widows who seem to be more than woman with deceased husbands, but a kind of religious order whose members were of proven piety and character and who did works of hospitality (1 Tim 5:9-13). Deacons are mentioned as engaging in works of charity and “waiting on tables” (Acts 6;2) but who moved, as we have seen, into more activity, blurring with the traveling apostles, prophets, and teachers.
It was from just such a community at Antioch in Syria that Ananias was sent to heal Paul of his blindness. Then there are listed here and there healers, interpreters of tongues, administrators, and others (see 1 Cor. 12:4-5, 28). There were, then, a variety of agents and officers who engaged in ministering to the small communities and house-churches of the first century. All arose as the needs of the community demanded. As might be expected, not all ministers were either adequate or worthy. Some could be quite divisive. The pastoral epistles (those written by Paul or another author in his style to Timothy and Titus bearing on practical, pastoral maters were written to counteract the unworthy leader.
There are two other very important ministries that appear in the New Testament and the other writings as well. One is the person called the “guardian” of the community. That word translates as “bishop.” The other term is “presbyter” and sometimes the terms of guardian and presbyter are used so interchangeably that it’s hard to tell if and when there is a distinction. There is some significance to how often the New Testament writers are unclear in this whole matter of ministries. They appear to be casually imprecise, vague, and indefinite. And this, of course, indicates that the exact structure and definition of the various ministries were obviously not a pressing matter for them. But this is exactly as we might expect if, in fact, the early church is using that freedom from Jesus to evolve its ministries under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, what does come across strongly is that whatever the precise definition of ministries and office is they must both be geared to community service, Again the community is shaping the ministry, not the other way around.
Getting back to the bishop[ (guardian) and the presbyter we must explore their origins. We will take the presbyter first. The word literally means elder. It is Jewish in expression but universal in theme.
Israel’s establishment of them goes back to Moses, whose father-in-law, perhaps thinking of his neglected daughter, urged Moses to get help “for the thing is too heavy for you… choose able men from all the people… and let them judge the people at all times” (Ex 18:18-22). Moses is directly appointed by God who tells him to gather seventy elders “and I will take some of the spirit which is upon you and put it upon them” (Num. 11:16-18). (Note that God gives some of Moses’ spirit away; he is still full leader and the others are subordinate to him.)
We should note that these elder-presbyters (we’ll use this hyphenated form for a while) from the beginning were “ordained,” that is they were installed in their position by the laying on of hands. The tasks of these elder-presbyter lay mainly in the role of judging, guiding, and in-general, presiding over the local community.
Some of the elder-presbyters, collectively called the Presbyterate, were sent out to carry messages to various Jewish communities and promote piety and learning. They carried a certain air of authority coming as they did from the main Jerusalem Sanhedrin. They could even raise funds and preside over the local courts (the very thing the traveling Paul did). They were something like an ambassador.
Such “sent members” had a special title derived from the word sent: apostle.
At the time of the Christian era, such Jewish elder-presbyters in their roe as traveling apostles made the rounds with the power and authority of the great Sanhedrin to redress wrongs, bring judgment, and form a liaison with the first Christian communities with their elder-presbyters at Jerusalem under the leadership of James (Acts 2:17-not the same as the apostle James and the sent out traveling apostles such as Paul and Barnabas.
There were then at Jerusalem a counter part Christian Sanhedrin, or Presbyterate, composed of the apostles (the original), and the elder-presbyters.
Recall the opening lines of the letter sent out from the Council of Jerusalem. “The brethren, both the apostles and the presbyters, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles…” (Acts 15:23). In the first years, then, when the church was small, confined mostly to loose communities of Jewish Christians and house meetings, this Jerusalem Sanhedrin of Christian elder-presbyters was the final authority but always of course, in connection with the original apostles of Jesus. The other church communities that sprung up outside Jerusalem naturally looked to them for approval, support and supervision.
Barnabas winds up organizing the local community around local prophets of charismatic figures (Acts 13:1). These local leaders have no special title and were referred to by Paul simply as “those who labor for the community” or “those who are over you.” Such prophets or charismatic figures were beholden to the traveling apostles who founded them.
When the founding traveling apostles moved on, leadership was taken over by local leaders arising from the community (see 1 Thes 5:12). Beholden to the general overseeing of the apostles while they were alive (1 Cor. 14:36, 37) and originating from local grass roots, they ruled in virtue of their charismatic gifts, or their position as prophets-teachers, or as persons put forth from the local council of rulers or elders, or as appointed directly by the people.
When we look at other New Testament writings beyond Paul’s, we gather from 1 Peter and johannine epistles that they had in their communities an independent council of elder-presbyters who were grouped, not around a traveling apostle like Paul, but around a stable, in resident president much like the Jerusalem Council gathered around the presidency of James.
This “presidency” is significant and brings us to our final office to be considered. We find in as a distinct development after Paul’s death (and one which he would approval). Around the years 58 to 62 at Philippi and Epheus among the ruling elder-presbyter body, one of their number begins to stand out as the leader, this is someone clearly “more-equal” than the others even though he works with them. he is called the guardian or the bishop and he is assisted by his deacons. In the pastoral epistles, on the other hand, he appears to be someone quite distinct from the elder-presbyters.
1. Which aspects of the history of the Church’s ministries do you think are least understood? What particular difficulties, if any, does this misunderstanding produce in the life of the Church today?
2. Given the close relationship between political and ecclesiastical developments in the early Church, how might the Church’s ministries have developed if the Church had taken root in twentieth-century America rather than in the heart of the Roman empire?
3. Do you approve of the way leaders are selected today? if so, why? If not, how would you go about changing the systems?
4. Do you favor the restoration of the permanent diaconate? What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing so?
This is the personal life testimony of me, Sue Donaldson.
I am a born and bred Annapolitan (Annapolis, MD), raised Catholic. My
mother struggled to send me, my sisters and brother to Catholic schools. I
might not have appreciated it then, but I do now, if for no other reason
than a better education than public schools here have to offer.
The product of a broken home (I was 7 years old when my parents divorced),
we had to grow up pretty quickly. We didn’t hear much from my father –
financially or socially – for the first few years. With my mother thrust
into a position of working 12-15 hour days, we took care of the house – the
cooking and cleaning. My eldest sister Nancy, then 12, was in charge.
The first two years following the divorce was, for me, full of a variety of
kinds of abuse from assorted family members (not immediate family). The
safest thing to do was to withdraw from life, from people. But that didn’t
stop the pain. Not hearing from my father served to worsen things for me; I
had always been “daddy’s girl.”
Maybe that was the reason I got so involved in the YoungLife group as a
freshman in high school, when I was 13. Somehow I knew Jesus loved me, and
wouldn’t hurt me, and I could always cry about my problems to Him without
creating any more. I felt accepted, without being judged. Safe.
The people I met – the priests associated with the school and the others
involved in the group – felt like a *real* family to me. It was incredible
how close the feeling was. People’s pasts didn’t matter; the present and
the future were important. Most important was our love for the Lord and the
fellowship in Christ we had together.
The next two years were filled with a spiritual growth the likes of which
I’d have never thought possible! There were no limits on our rejoicing, and
I would never have thought a prayer life could have been any fuller than it
was at that point.
As I entered my junior year, the majority of the group had graduated, and
YoungLife disbanded. Guess I felt sort of abandoned (again).
At 15 years of age I was working about 25 hours a week – and drinking
pretty heavily. At 16 I started smoking pot. My freshman year in college, I
met – and started dating – a dealer, and was soon involved with cocaine,
speed, LSD, mushrooms, hash, opium and probably a couple other drugs I
can’t recall at the moment.
Four years later, I broke it off with the dealer, but still hung onto the
drugs. Hey – they were security…a way to “cope.”
During those 13 “wasted years,” a lot happened…failed relationships, lost
friendships, a lot of turmoil. Suicide entered my mind, as it probably
enters the minds of a lot of people involved in drugs to that degree. And
while I didn’t actively seek it, my actions leaned in a different
direction. I’d go for days without eating or sleeping. I *had* to stay on
the speed, I rationalized; after all, I was taking 15 credits in college
and working 35 hours a week.
A friend – whose opinion I valued more than life itself at that point –
said to me “Sue. You’ve gotta stop this. You *have* to slow down. Lay off
the speed, get some rest and eat something. If you don’t, you’re gonna kill
yourself.” I smiled at Scott and said “I don’t care.” And I meant it.
I’m not sure what happened to change that attitude, and I can’t point to a
specific time that it happened, but I found myself feeling out of control.
Gradually, I broke out of the addictions and got away from the drugs. Pot
was the hardest thing give up, though. My last round with it was in July,
Even before I gave that up, though, I felt a tug from Above; a burning
desire…no, a NEED…to regain that relationship with Christ that I had
once, what seemed like a lifetime ago. And I started seeking that
relationship, albeit fairly feebly and in the wrong places. I began by
talking with people, hoping to maybe rekindle a spark that I believed was
still there, somewhere.
Months passed and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to find what I
sought. I wasn’t sure I deserved to have that back again. Through the
bulletin boards I met a fellow in Baltimore who told me to relax about it
and not be as worried as I had been; that things would happen in their own
Less than two months after that, I found myself calling SMCIS. To this day,
I do not know where I got the phone number for the board. With that first
call, a series of amazing “coincidences” began to happen…
…I do not call long distance boards, but I began to call SMCIS. Every
…Buggs Bugnon invites me to a CBMC outreach dinner, which I attended.
…In response to a message to someone else, Buggs told me he could put me
in touch with a couple here in Annapolis who might be able to help me
regain the degree of faith I once enjoyed. While Annapolis is not a huge
city, it’s not very small, either. The couple he put me in touch with –
Andy & Sheila Buist – live less than 2 miles from me.
…Sheila and I were discussing the importance of reading the Bible. I told
her I was having difficulty doing that, probably because I found the
language in the KJV a little archaic, and that was all I had at the time.
Three days later in a class in Ellicott City, the group broke for lunch
(which we NEVER do), and walked across the highway for something to eat.
This was the first day in seven it had not rained. On our way back, the
teacher spied a book in the ground, bent over and picked it up. Smiling, he
handed it to me and said “Here. This *must* be for you.” It was a (NIV)
Ryrie Study Bible…soaking wet, but otherwise looked brand new. Three days
later it was dry and in perfect working order.
…Buggs and the Buists started telling me about the CBMC conferene at
Sandy Cove. As it turned out, I had already put in for that exact week off,
but had no plans at that point.
There are other “coincidences” too numerable to mention. Since March, my
faith and relationship with our Lord has grown and blossomed like flowers
in springtime. Praise the Lord, my entire life has changed! I’ve gone from
worrying about scoring drugs to getting up at 5:30 in the morning so I can
read the Bible and pray before I have to go to work! My concerns aren’t
with “fitting in with the crowd” or “trying to escape reality,” but with
making sure I live a life that will give tribute to our Father.
My decision to leave the Catholic Church was not an easy one. I’d
been there all my life and such changes are not made lightly. And while
the church I’m a part of now is 40 miles away from home, I’m being better
fed spiritually there, at Grace Fellowship Church in Baltimore, than I
*ever* was in the Catholic Church. In addition, the teaching is first
rate and corporate worship brings a warmth like I’ve never known was
My involvement with Grace grows weekly. I’m becoming an integral part
of the church: Being enveloped in a small group (a “house church”)
which meets weekly; going through a Spiritual Gifts workshop for
determining individual areas of giftedness so I can become part of the
Ministry Team, receive an assignment and serve the Body with my
gifts… While this is exciting, it’s also a bit frightening to
realize the days of being a spectator are over and it’s time to
actually become involved!
No, it’s not all peaches and cream. It’s not all roses. There are still
concerns, worries and troubles. Now I worry about future in general
and my career in particular. I wonder about the decisions I make and
hope and pray that they’re guided by God. I look to Him for
inspiration; I lean on Him when things get rough; I cry to Him when I
just can’t stand it any more; and I’ve been known to yell at Him
during my weaker moments. But I know He’s in control…
And the future will no doubt be filled with more problems and more
questions. After all, we *all* are engaged in that spiritual warfare. And
with renewed faith comes a battle which is even more heated than before.
But the joy is in knowing Christ is with me, and with us all. And that
through Him, all things can be accomplished. As I look back at the last 14
years of my life, I know He was by my side all the way. I certainly could
not have lived through that without Him.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
My wife Ann and I are very proud to call Sue Donaldson our friend.
Although we are mentioned above, we had nothing to do with how the Lord has
worked in the life of Sue Donaldson and how He will continue to work in her
life as she continue to let go and let God.
This file has been brought to you by:
Southern MD Christian Information Service (301)862-3160 300-19.2 HST
P.O. Box 463
Californai, MD 20619
Sysop: Buggs Bugnon
You may also call here and leave a message for Sue…..
God bless you as you have read the personal testimony of Sue Donaldson.