A Scriptural Study Newsletter edited by Elder Vernon Johnson

How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!




Elder, Pastor

The Greek word, “poimen,” is found 18 times in the new testament. According to Strong’s it means “shepherd, overseer, or pastor.” It is translated shepherd 14 times and in all 14 times it refers to Jesus. It is translated shepherds 3 times and refers to the shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks by night about the time of the birth of Christ. It is translated pastor one time and that is in Eph. 4:11, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers...” I agree that there are only two offices given to the new testament church and that is bishop or elder and deacon. However, there are different names given to those who occupy the office of bishop or elder. As noted above, some of the bishops or elders were apostles, some were prophets, some were evangelists, and some were pastors and teachers. This seems to have reference to their particular authority or work given to them of the Lord. Peter who we know was one of the Apostles, refers to himself as an elder in 1 Peter 5:1, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed.” Other name given to the bishops or elders is overseer: In Acts 20:28 Paul taught the elders of the church of Ephesus to “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.”

Stong defines the following words as follows:

1. Bishop - 1985. episkopos, ep is' kop os; from G1909 and G4649 (in the sense of G1983); a superintendent, i.e. Chr. officer in gen. charge of a (or the) church (lit. or fig.): bishop, overseer.

2. Elder - 4245. presbuteros, pres boo' ter os; compar. of presbus (elderly); older; as noun, a senior; spec. an Isr. Sanhedrist (also fig. member of the celestial council) or Chr. "presbyter": elder ( est), old.

3. Pastor - 4166. poimen, poy mane'; of uncert. affin.; a shepherd (lit. or fig.): shepherd, pastor.

4. Overseer - 1985. episkopos, ep is' kop os; from G1909 and G4649 (in the sense of G1983); a superintendent, i.e. Chr. officer in gen. charge of a (or the) church (lit. or fig.): bishop, overseer.

The Greek word translated angel is aggelos, ang' el os; from aggello [prob. der. from G71; comp. G34] (to bring tidings); a messenger; esp. an "angel"; by impl. a pastor: angel, messenger. It is translated angel 181 times and is translated messenger 7 times in the new testament. Three times the word has reference to John the Baptist (Matt. 11:10, Mk. 1:2, Lk.7:27), once it has reference to the messenger of Satan (2 Cor. 12:7), once it has reference to the disciples of John (Lk. 7:24), once it has reference to the disciples of Jesus (Lk. 9:52), and once it has reference to the spies that Rahab the harlot rescued (James 2:25). Since John was instructed of the Lord to write to the angels (messengers) of the churches of Asia, it would seem that he was to write to the one or ones who were responsible to carry the Lord’s message to the church, which certainly is the case of the elder (pastor, bishop, overseer) of the church.

With regards to the question as to who determines who will preach in a Primitive Baptist Church, it has been my experience that the members are continuously encouraged to pray for the leadership of the Holy Spirit in this matter. During the regular church services the pastor of the church generally determines who will preach as he has been made “overseer” of the flock of God by the Holy Ghost and thus bears the responsibility before God.

Spiritual Circumcision of the Heart

In this essay we will look at the "new birth" as a spiritual "circumcision" of the heart.

In the old testament (Gen. 17:7 14) we read where God established his covenant with Abraham and his seed after him for an everlasting covenant and gave them the ordinance of circumcision as a "token" of the covenant between God and Abraham. Every man child was to be circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin when he was eight days old. Thus circumcision identified them with the covenant God made with Abraham and his seed.  In Rom. 2:28, 29 we read of the "spiritual circumcision of the heart" as follows: "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."

In Col. 2:11 we read how this spiritual circumcision of the heart takes place, "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ." There are several points we wish to make about this "spiritual circumcision of the heart." First, this circumcision is performed by Christ and it is done without hands. This is a direct operation performed by Jesus Christ upon the sinner's heart and it is done without human instrumentality.

Second, as the ordinance of natural circumcision was a token of the covenant God made with Abraham and his seed, so spiritual circumcision of the heart is tied to the eternal covenant of redemption as set forth in Rom. 8:28 30. It is in the process of "God's calling" that the covenant children have their hearts circumcised.

Third, as natural circumcision identified the recipient with the covenant promises made to Abraham and his seed, so spiritual circumcision of the heart in the new birth identifies the recipient with God's covenant promises in the covenant of redemption. It is in the evidences of the new birth that we are able to identify ourselves and others with those covenant promises of election, predestination, justification, and glorification.

Fourth, as in natural circumcision there was a cutting away of the foreskin of the flesh, so in spiritual circumcision there is a "putting off the body of the sins of the flesh." When we are born again we begin to realize we are sinners, but we are also brought to understand that Jesus died to put away our sins. As a result of the new birth we see our sins put away by Jesus covenant work of redemption on the cross. He was made to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God by him (II Cor. 5:21).

Fifth, as natural circumcision was performed on the eight day and eight is the bible number associated with new beginnings, so spiritual circumcision of the heart is a new beginning for those thus circumcised. II Cor. 5:17, "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold all things are become new." When we are born again, we are a "new beginning" spiritually.  Whereas, before, we had no spiritual life and were incapable of understanding spiritual things and had no desire for the things of God, afterwards, we have spiritual life and thus are capable of comprehending spiritual things and desire the things of God.

Sixth, spiritual circumcision is performed on the heart. It involves a change of the heart (seat of emotions). After the new birth we have a heart that greatly desires and longs for the things of God. It cries out "abba father" and is emotionally tied to the covenant work of Jesus Christ.

Seven, spiritual circumcision of the heart makes us an "inward Jew." We are now associated with the people of God through an inward work of grace on our heart performed by the Holy Spirit. The word Judah means "praise." We are now the "praise" of God not through our works but as a result of God's inward work. Furthermore, as inward Jews we should give "praise" to God for his unspeakable gift.

Primitive Baptist