by Michael Alford
“The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd .” Ecc 12:11
This unusual verse tucked away in the back corner of Ecclesiastes is interesting to say the least, and if applied might just change the way we conduct ourselves. A friend of mine preached an entire series out of this verse many years back, and while trying to steal his material, I found a completely different application.
Taking the verse at face value, we have the “one shepherd”, who is obviously the Lord Jesus Christ according to John 10 and 1 Peter 2. This Shepherd has “words”, which would be the Bible according to John 6 and he gives those words to be used as nails or goads by those who are “masters of assemblies.” There is so much in that verse that we are compelled to push past most of it and zero in on the idea that these words are to be used by “masters”, as opposed to novices.
The Bible says in Isaiah 22:23-24 that “And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house. And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.” A nail fastened in a sure place can not only join things together, but can hold the weight of something heavy. It takes mastery to know where to put the nail, and how to place that nail without rendering it useless and of no effect. If you give a novice carpenter a nail, he’ll probably bend it. He’ll hold the hammer wrong, or he won’t hit the nail right, or he’ll put it in the wrong place and the result will be a nail that was intended to fasten things together is now useless. But that same nail, in the hands of a master of his craft can help erect a beautiful edifice.
What is true in carpentry is also true in ministry. 1 Timothy 3 warns us of the dangers of being a novice in the ministry. According to verse 6, a novice in the ministry is a danger to himself and others. His pride leads to condemnation. A novice will lash out when he feels threatened and will bend every nail he gets near. He has the same tools the master has, but hasn’t exercised the discipline to know how to use them. Notice that, in 1 Timothy, the man must be past his novice days before he is entrusted with authority. That means mastery is possible whether or not you hold a church office. In fact, I maintain that mastery of the Shepherd’s words is part of our “reasonable service”.
Unfortunately, our pulpits and Sunday schools are sometimes occupied by novices who, although they have been in the ministry for years, have never exercised the disciplines necessary to properly handle the words of the Shepherd. Sometimes they compensate with emotionalism or natural charisma. Sometimes they devolve into petty tyranny. Their ministry is just one bent nail after another. In a best-case scenario this manifests itself as poor understanding of the scriptures and immature believers. At worst, it manifests itself as emotional manipulation and saints marred by abuse. We have been entrusted with God’s words so that others might be edified and if we use those words skillfully, we can become “masters of assemblies”. Our words can be effective, and fasten things together. We can , by our skill, either help join other Christians closer to the Chief Shepherd, or by our incompetence, destroy them. We can build things that will last to the glory of God, or build things that will fall apart in a stiff breeze.
God has given us a Bible, and given us commands like “study to shew thyself approved unto God” and “let all things be done unto edifying”. We are told to “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers .” We are commanded to“speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:” These responsibilities fall on all believers, not just ‘preachers’ or pastors or Sunday school teachers, and cannot be accomplished without knowledge and application of the scriptures.
Simply put, you owe it to yourself to get a handle on your Bible. Stop making excuses. It’s not a matter of intelligence, it’s a matter of application. It’s not a matter of time, it’s a matter of priorities. A man , or woman, or child that diligently applies themselves to not just the study of the scriptures, but the reading of the scriptures will find God himself moving them from being novices to being masters. Along the way they will learn how not to bend so many nails, and they will learn where to place those unbent nails and before long, they will be an asset to the church of the living God.
by Michael Alford
Original article can be found at http://michaelalford.blogspot.com/2015/05/masters-of-assemblies.html