This Week's Focus Passage

John 10:11-13 ‘He that is a hireling and not a shepherd.'

Alexander Henderson (1583-1646), Scottish minister, described as ‘the Second Reformer’. Born probably in the Fife parish of Creich, he graduated with distinction at St. Andrews (1603) and was appointed regent there. Favored as a supporter of Episcopacy, not later than 1614 he was given the parish of Leuchars, an induction carried out against the wishes of the parishioners, who had secured the church doors. Soon afterwards, Henderson went secretly to hear Robert Bruce preach at nearby Fergan Kirk, and was converted. Subsequently he publicly denounced Episcopacy as unauthorized by the Word of God and incompatible with the Reformed C of S’s doctrine. In 1618 he was summoned before the Court of High Commission for speaking out against the Perth Articles, but authority evidently found it imprudent to move against non-conformists of good reputation, and, though precluded from taking part in national Church affairs, Henderson continued his Leuchars ministry.”—Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology.

More detail is offered in an article printed in the very first issue of Naphtali Press, which was published in 1988. In this article, we are granted a more insightful view of the above-mentioned ‘induction’ of Henderson into the parish of Leuchars. In this helpful article, we are told that:

“Not much is known about Mr. Henderson’s early life. In 1615 he was first settled as a minister of the word in Leuchars. Being young and ambitious, and unregenerate, he was in favor of the Episcopacy which had been forced upon Scotland at that time, and in fact had to crawl in through the window of the church to which he was first installed, the doors being locked against him, for the people were against the corruptions of that party. However, he was destined to be brought from the darkness of his sinful estate through the means of one of the most eminent men of that day, Mr. Robert Bruce. Having gone secretly to hear Bruce preach, and taking a seat in the back of the church, he was greatly affected by the text which the preacher uttered, and the following sermon upon them: He that cometh not in by the door, but climbeth up another way, the same is a thief and a robber. Henderson many times accounted this as the time of his conversion.”

I expect that my readers will agree with me that Alexander Henderson fit most adequately the picture that is formed by the text of our focus passage this week. He was indeed a ‘hireling’ rather than a ‘shepherd,’ whether he had been ‘hired’ by the church of Episcopacy at that time, or whether he were hired by his own greed for preferment in the ecclesiastical realm of that day. He was a ‘hireling’ because of his desire for eminence, and because of his being ‘sold out’ to the things of the world, and clearly not ‘sold out’ to Christ. The reality of this subsequently became most clear in the fact of his conversion under the preaching of Robert Bruce. All praise to God that he was convicted under the Word of God pronounced by Mr. Bruce. The text that the Holy Spirit used to convict Henderson was a remarkable Providence in that it spoke to his actual experience of not coming through the door, but actually having to ‘climb up another way.’ God can and will speak to His own. He regenerates their hearts enabling them to truly hear His voice and then, having thereby made them willing to come to Him in the day of His power, He calls them in unmistakable terms. He will never leave one of His own to remain outside of Christ, for He Himself has placed them in Christ from before the foundation of the world.

Thus, by the grace of God, Alexander Henderson who began his career as a hireling became a true shepherd of God’s flock; an under-shepherd of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd of His sheep. He subsequently was greatly used of God in the nation of Scotland. He was chosen as one of the commissioners of the Church of Scotland to the Westminster Assembly. He passed from this earth’s scene in the midst of those deliberations at the age of sixty-three. He was surely not the first, nor will he be the last, ‘hireling’ to be found out by the Holy Spirit and converted by His sovereign working upon the heart to become a shepherd.

There exists in many churches of our day, a carelessness—hopefully not intended—with regard to the manner of choosing the pastors of these churches. Of course, in the many non-independent congregations; non-independent because they are part of an episcopal hierarchical system of church government whereby it is more like unto the manner of Alexander Henderson’s induction by those who are above the local congregation. Baptists are among the independent churches that make their own choices for their leadership. Unhappily, in the majority of those cases, it does not appear that enough care is given to what the Scriptures have to say about this most important matter. Again, we do not impugn these folk and would rather suggest that they are victims, as it were, in most cases, of the traditions of men.

What is found in the Word of God regarding the calling of under-shepherds of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, is largely found in words of the apostle Paul, and, of course, the words of Christ Himself in our focus passage. In the instructions given Titus at the very beginning of Paul’s epistle to his ‘child in the common faith,’ he exhorts him to appoint elders in every city. Now the context determines without question that Paul is not referring to ‘city elders,’ but rather, elders in the Christian churches of every city. The word he has used for these leaders is presbuteros, and can be rendered, elders or presbyters. Rendering it ‘presbyters’ is perhaps the cause of Hendricksen’s understanding Paul to be directing Titus ‘to establish presbyteries.’

The Scriptures do not teach the Presbyterian form of government, although here we do see taught the plurality of elders/pastors over each assembly. This is clear in Paul’s words in Acts 20 as well. He has called the presbuteros of the church at Ephesus. He refers to them in verse 28 as ‘bishops/overseers/episcopos (plural). The ideal is that of a plurality of elders in each local congregation. Titus is to go to each local church; encourage believers ‘to look out among themselves’ men that meet the requirements given by Paul. They are not told to consult any ‘General Assembly.’


David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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